By Lewis Krauskopf and Sinéad Carew
Shares of Pfizer Inc hit a record high on Tuesday for the first time in more than 20 years as shares of COVID-19 vaccine makers have surged amid rising coronavirus cases in the United States.
Pfizer shares were last up 4.9% at $48.25, climbing as high as $48.57 during the session. The stock's previous intraday high was $47.44, reached on April 12, 1999.
The percentage gain was the stock's biggest one-day rise since Nov. 9, when Pfizer released positive data for its COVID-19 vaccine.
“I think they are finally getting credit for the vaccine," said Jeff Jonas, a portfolio manager at Gabelli Funds, which owns Pfizer shares.
While investors had treated the vaccine before as "a one-time cash infusion … it is really going to be a durable business, unfortunately," Jonas said, adding that Pfizer should be able to leverage the vaccine's technology for use against other types of disease as well.
Pfizer's share gains come as those of another coronavirus vaccine maker, Moderna Inc, have also been on a tear.
While Moderna's shares were down 4% on Tuesday, they have soared some 78% since mid July, when S&P Dow Jones Indices announced it was adding the biotech company's stock to the benchmark S&P 500 index.
U.S.-traded shares of Pfizer's partner on the vaccine, Germany's BioNTech, were down over 5% on Tuesday, but have climbed about 30% this month.
Shares of Novavax, which last week delayed its timeline for its COVID-19 vaccine, were up 11% on Tuesday.
The rapid spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus has pushed cases and hospitalizations in the United States to a six-month high.
"The Delta variant has scared a lot of people into getting inoculated," said Peter Tuz, president of Chase Investment Counsel and an investor in Pfizer.
Pfizer in late July raised its 2021 sales forecast for its COVID-19 vaccine by 29% to $33.5 billion.
Ashtyn Evans, a healthcare analyst at Edward Jones, said Pfizer will be able to use the cash flow from the vaccine "for both internal research and development and for acquisitions to strengthen their pipeline."
Additional reporting by Noel Randewich in San Francisco; Reporting by Lewis Krauskopf Editing by Marguerita Choy.