Share market on watch over AstraZeneca vaccine fears

The AstraZeneca vaccine has been suspended from use by at least 16 nations. What impact, if any, could this have on the ASX?

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Young man looking afraid representing ASX shares investor scared of market crash

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At least 16 European countries, including Germany, France, Italy and Ireland, have temporarily suspended use of the AstraZeneca plc (LON: AZN) COVID-19 vaccine over fears it may cause blood clots in some recipients. The manufacturer of the vaccine, which has been approved for use in Australia, insists there is no risk from the product’s use.

Studies conducted during the development of the vaccine, as well as observations during the public rollout, do not indicate any level of heightened threat.

With an effective vaccine distribution contributing to recent market confidence, could fears over the vaccine’s safety impact the ASX?

Australian Government continuing vaccine rollout

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said Australia will not pause the AstraZeneca vaccine rollout.

“[Australian health experts] have not found any causal link between the vaccine and blood clots,” he told Sky News this morning.

“…the vaccine rollout will continue.”

Similarly, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the Therapeutics Good Administration (TGA) does not need to reconsider approving the vaccine. The PM has previously cited a thorough examination of the efficacy and safety of the AstraZeneca shot as a reason for Australia’s slower than expected inoculation speed.

While the TGA has approved the imported AstraZeneca vaccine for use in Australia, it is yet to approve the locally manufactured variant. The CSL Limited (ASX: CSL) mass-produced vaccine will provide 50 million doses for Australia and its neighbours.

What a delayed rollout could mean for the ASX

The S&P/ASX 200 Index (ASX: XJO) is up 2,227 points (or 49%) since the coronavirus induced mass sell-off of March last year. Arguably, part of the reason for the strong recovery can be attributed to optimism that vaccines will lead to a quick end to the pandemic.

And European markets slid lower overnight as news more countries had suspended their vaccine rollouts spooked investors.

Again, the Australian government does not intend to pause the AstraZeneca vaccine in Australia and there is no evidence of direct harm caused by it.

However, the share market isn’t always a rational beast. Any fears over a delay to the vaccine’s rollout in Australia could scare off some investors here.

The economic impacts of COVID-19 and subsequent restrictions devasted some of Australia’s largest companies, particularly those operating in the travel sector or those which are heavily reliant on open borders for their revenue.

It will be interesting to see whether ASX shares such as CSL, Qantas Airways Limited (ASX: QAN), Flight Centre Travel Group Ltd (ASX: FLT), and A2 Milk Company Ltd (ASX: A2M) see any fallout from reports surrounding the AstraZeneca vaccine when today’s session kicks off.

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Marc Sidarous has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia's parent company Motley Fool Holdings Inc. owns shares of CSL Ltd. The Motley Fool Australia owns shares of and has recommended A2 Milk. The Motley Fool Australia has recommended Flight Centre Travel Group Limited. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

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