The Value of a Cure: An Asset Pricing Perspective

Viral V. Acharya, Timothy C. Johnson, Suresh M. Sundaresan, Steven Zheng

Research output: Working paper


We provide an estimate of the value of a cure using the joint behavior of stock prices and a vaccine progress indicator during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Our indicator is based on the chronology of stage-by-stage progress of individual vaccines and related news. We construct a general equilibrium regime-switching model of repeated pandemics and stages of vaccine progress wherein the representative agent withdraws labor and alters consumption endogenously to mitigate health risk. The value of a cure in the resulting asset-pricing framework is intimately linked to the relative labor supply across states. The observed stock market response to vaccine progress serves to identify this quantity, allowing us to use the model to estimate the economy-wide welfare gain that would be attributable to a cure. In our estimation, and with standard preference parameters, the value of the ability to end the pandemic is worth 5-15% of total wealth. This value rises substantially when there is uncertainty about the frequency and duration of pandemics. Agents place almost as much value on the ability to resolve the uncertainty as they do on the value of the cure itself. This effect is stronger – not weaker – when agents have a preference for later resolution of uncertainty. The policy implication is that understanding the fundamental biological and social determinants of future pandemics may be as important as resolving the immediate crisis.
Original languageEnglish (US)
PublisherNational Bureau of Economic Research
Number of pages78
StatePublished - Nov 17 2020

Publication series

NameNBER Working Paper


  • pandemic
  • vaccine
  • COVID-19
  • regime-switching
  • parameter uncertainty


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