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Pfizer, Moderna Slump as Biden Supports COVID Vaccine Patent Waiver

'This is a global health crisis, and the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures,' the USTR says in a statement.

Pfizer  (PFE) - Get Pfizer Inc. Report shares slumped lower Thursday, leading declines for vaccine makers in the U.S. and Europe, after President Joe Biden indicated his support for waving patent protections linked to proprietary COVID technology.

Moderna  (MRNA) - Get Moderna Inc. Report shares were also pressured by first quarter results that included softer-than-expected revenues and an improved  full-year vaccine sales forecast.

Biden, who had earlier rejected calls to waive intellectual property rights on vaccine patents for fear of stiffing innovation, reversed course late Wednesday and agreed to take the issue to the Word Trade Organization as calls grow to fight a wave of new infections -- and variant developments -- in India and South America. 

The WTO’s General Council will meet later today, although a final decision may take several weeks as drugmakers challenge the wavier and health officials weigh concerns for a lack of manufacturing capacity and basic materials against the benefits of removing patent protection.

"This is a global health crisis, and the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures," said U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai. "The administration believes strongly in intellectual property protections, but in service of ending this pandemic, supports the waiver of those protections for COVID-19 vaccines."

“As our vaccine supply for the American people is secured, the Administration will continue to ramp up its efforts-- working with the private sector and all possible partners-- to expand vaccine manufacturing and distribution," she added. "It will also work to increase the raw materials needed to produce those vaccines.” 

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Pfizer shares were marked 4% lower in early trading Thursday to indicate an opening bell price of $38.40 each. 

The drugmaker said earlier this week it hopes to generate as much as $26 billion in revenues from its BNT162b2 coronavirus vaccine, which it developed with Germany's BioNTech  (BNTX) - Get BioNTech SE Report, and boosted its full-year profit forecast to a region of $3.55 to $3.65 per share.bntz ti

CEO Albert Bourla told CNBC on Tuesday that waving vaccine patents make's "zero sense", adding "I don’t think that any country right now is in a position to produce or any company mRNA right now over there because there’s no infrastructure ready."

BioNTech's U.S.-listed shares, meanwhile, fell 9% to $154.00 each. 

Mordena, whose messenger-RNA vaccine was approved by the Food & Drug Administration last year after receiving financial support from the government's Operation Warp Speed vaccine program, fell 9.5% to $148.20 each. 

Novavax  (NVAX) - Get Novavax Inc. Report, whose COVID vaccine is not yet approved for use in the United States but has held production discussions with the USTR and plans to reveal details of its late-stage study in the coming weeks, slumped 5.2% to $162.80 each.