Though there are currently several pharmaceutical companies in late-stage development of a COVID-19 vaccine, recent developments from Pfizer and Moderna have catapulted the two companies into a prime position to gain the first federal distribution approvals. Both received massive attention in response to their higher-than-expected vaccine effectiveness results, and barring any setbacks, it could now be only a matter of weeks before the first stages of public distribution begin. In even more promising news, a vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University this week became the third candidate to announce promising early results.

Using the Zignal Media Intelligence Cloud (looking at data from November 1 – 22, 2020), we took a closer look at how the conversations around Pfizer and Moderna evolved upon the announcement of their Phase 3 trial results. Our analysis didn’t include mentions of the most recent AstraZeneca/Oxford developments, as it’s still too early to tell, comprehensively, how conversations about that announcement will play out. 

Key Findings

  • Pfizer saw the most discussion, totaling 1.47 million vaccine-related mentions since November 1st, whereas Moderna received 500k vaccine-related mentions over the same time span.
    • Pfizer received 1.1 million mentions in the five days after announcing its trial results, while Moderna received 461k mentions in its first five days after its announcement.
  • The vaccine news around both companies has been relatively well-received, with Pfizer and Moderna netting just 20% and 18% negative sentiment, respectively.

Conversation Around Trial Results

Total mentions over time (November 1 – 22)


  • Pfizer saw its largest spike on November 9th after announcing that its vaccine was found to be over 90% effective at preventing COVID-19 in Stage 3 clinical trials.
  • Pfizer received another spike in mentions on November 20th upon news that they are applying for emergency authorization from the FDA and other regulatory agencies around the world.


Sentiment Breakdown

Mention sentiment breakdown by company (Nov 1 – 22)

Pfizer’s mentions netted sentiment that was 20% negative, 33% neutral, and 47% positive, while Moderna’s mentions netted sentiment that was 18% negative, 25% neutral, and 57% positive.

  • Perhaps the strongest booster to positive sentiment was that both Pfizer and Moderna’s clinical trials achieved much higher efficacy — the percent reduction in COVID-19 cases from the vaccinated group as compared to the control group — than initially expected, especially for vaccines that were produced at record speed.
    • Both achieved over 90% efficacy, which has created a sense of optimism that the country may return to a sense of normalcy by mid-2021.
    • This has also increased the possibility that the first supply of vaccines may be delivered sooner rather than later, potentially by the end of 2020.
  • A major contributor to Pfizer’s negative mentions came from self-identified supporters of President Trump, who directly claimed that Pfizer tried to skew the election’s outcome by waiting to announce the strong trial results until after the election.
  • However, for both Pfizer and Moderna — as well as several other pharmaceutical companies — individuals who are against a COVID-19 vaccine is another issue in itself.
    • According to a new Gallup poll, only 58% of Americans said they would get an FDA-approved vaccine, assuming it was delivered at no cost.
    • While this number is up from September, it’s clear that many Americans still question the effectiveness, safety, and/or the ethics around a potential COVID-19 vaccine.

What This All Means for Pharma Comms

Pharma is currently under more pressure from regulators and the public than almost any other industry. This analysis shows the kind of issues and metrics pharma companies should keep track of when planning and optimizing their communications. Communications teams in pharma use media intelligence to: 

  • Track how government and healthcare officials are responding to pharmaceutical developments.
    • See which legislators are making decisions, and understand the influence they have on your company and its products.
    • For instance, each state and governor may go about the vaccination process in different ways, so it’s important to stay aware of the landscape as it evolves.
  • Protect your brand from reputational risks.
    • When developing such a complex product — such as a COVID-19 vaccine — there are bound to be setbacks along the way.
    • Stay ahead of these crises by gaining visibility into news and online conversation before it erupts.

For other insights and analysis of timely topics, read our briefs and reports on Zignal’s blog.

For more information and resources related to COVID-19, please visit Zignal’s dedicated COVID-19 Response Page, where you’ll find best practices, data-driven analysis, and shareable content you can leverage in your response to COVID-19.