Shares in CSL (ASX:CSL) and IDT Australia (ASX:IDT) both fell early after the latest setback to Australia’s COVID vaccination program – or specifically the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The Morrison government had aimed to vaccinate Australians by October and hedged its bets on AstraZeneca, hiring CSL to produce over 50 million doses locally.

While CSL has remained the only ASX company involved, small cap IDT has surged in the last three weeks after starting a feasibility assessment to see if its manufacturing facility could help in the COVID-19 vaccine program.

But last night the government announced AstraZeneca would no longer be recommended ahead of Pfizer for people under 50 due to its possible links to a blood clotting disorder.

While this has been a concern for some weeks, leading to other countries pausing the rollout, it took the first Australian (a 44-year-old man from Melbourne) to develop clots for the government to act.

The government hasn’t formally walked away from its October target, or the deals with Astra Zeneca and CSL.

In a statement last night CSL said it “remains committed to meeting its contracted arrangements with the Australian Government and AstraZeneca for locally produced AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines.”

But it’s now it is highly unlikely the October target will be met and questions are being asked whether all 50 million doses will be needed or used (at least in Australia).

While Australia does have a deal with Pfizer for their vaccine and it is also being rolled out, the current deal only caters for 20 million doses – only enough for 10 million Australians.

With the Pfizer vaccine reliant on RNA technology which has never successfully been replicated Down Under, Australia is now more reliant on imports and one of many countries eager for doses.

As of early April 2021, the TGA has only approved the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines. Although the government has made steps to acquire vaccines from Novonax, it is another RNA vaccine so it would need to be imported.


AstraZeneca news not good for CSL & IDT? Market says ‘meh’

Shares in CSL fell briefly in the first few minutes of trade but actually began to rise. Nevertheless, the biotech giant is down over 16 per cent since November.

IDT meanwhile fell over 5 per cent early and then climbed back above its opening price of 35.5 cents. However, it now well down from its high of 49 cents (reached on March 30).

While IDT has not updated the market since announcing the feasibility study, it is not the first time it has expressed interest in helping out with the fight against COVID-19.

Last April it said it had been asked to assist with “certain COVID‐ 19 response activities” by the Australian government leading to a 40 per cent share price jump that morning.

CSL (ASX:CSL) and IDT (ASX:IDT) share price chart