Since When is a Covid-19 Vaccine Bad for Business?

In the hellacious year that is 2020, the sight of semi-trucks pulling away from loading docks constitutes cause for celebration. Such was the scene over the weekend at a Pfizer manufacturing plant in Michigan, where onlookers cheered as delivery trucks headed out with the first shipments of Covid-19 vaccine in the United States.

But while people around the world eagerly anticipate a return to normal life, some companies are facing the strange reality that the development of a vaccine could hurt their businesses. That fact has already set in for California-based Zoom Video Communications Inc. When the pandemic forced Americans to hunker down in March, Zoom calls quickly became the rage. The online videoconferences became a preferred way to host everything from work meetings to kindergarten classes to dinner parties in the age of social distancing. Even as the novelty of virtual happy hours wore off, Zoom has remained a ubiquitous part of everyday life.

In its most recent quarterly report, Zoom called the pandemic-induced demand for its service “unprecedented.” The filing also included a more sobering disclosure for investors in the section on risk factors to Zoom’s business: “We expect our user growth rate to slow or decline once the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic tapers, particularly as a vaccine becomes widely available, and users return to work or school or are otherwise no longer subject to shelter-in-place mandates.”

Given the large number of industries affected by the pandemic—some of them positively—many companies will have to decide whether to follow Zoom’s lead and consider the vaccine a risk factor. Not all of the companies making this call are obvious. For example, adoptions and sales of dogs surged this year. In the short run, that sounds like a boon for publicly traded companies such as Chewy, an online retailer of pet food and supplies. However, as more people get vaccinated, the puppy boom will probably run its course.

And what about the topic du jour in the financial world, DoorDash? With indoor dining limited almost everywhere in the U.S., customers have turned to its app to satisfy cravings for their favorite foods. The price of the food delivery company’s stock skyrocketed in its first day of trading on December 9.

Once the lockdown is over, going out to eat may be preferable to consumers over an evening of delivered Chinese food and the latest offerings from Netflix. (That’s another company benefiting from a captive audience during the pandemic). DoorDash has already indicated that the Covid-19 vaccine could water down demand for its services, revealing in a final prospectus that “the circumstances that have accelerated the growth of our business stemming from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic may not continue in the future, and we expect the growth rates in revenue, Total Orders, and Marketplace GOV to decline in future periods.” But if the popularity of Amazon and the like is any indication, the appeal of DoorDash and other delivery-based businesses will almost certainly outlast the pandemic.

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