Dwindling Vaccine Sales Makes Big Pharma Switch Gears

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The masks are down, the gloves are off, and Wall Street analysts have come out swinging — Covid-19 vaccine revenue projections are plummeting across the board as pandemic concerns fade into the background.

On Sunday, the Financial Times reported health data analytics group Airfinity is projecting covid vaccine deliveries to drop by nearly half in 2023 — though they’re just the latest voice forecasting gloomy days for vaccine heavyweights like Pfizer, BioNTech, and Moderna. Still, Big Pharma may have enough counterpunches to keep investors in the ring.

Beyond COVID

At their zenith in the summer of 2021, roughly 43 million COVID-19 vaccines were administered weekly across the globe. For Pfizer, Moderna, and J&J, that meant roughly $164 million a day in vaccine-related revenue. Today, with 70% of the world’s population already jabbed, weekly distribution has plummeted to just 3 million.

As consumer demand wanes, the vaccine giants are also losing their anchor customer. While the Federal Government will continue footing the nationwide bill for the updated Omicron BA.5-specific vaccine, this fall it will shift Covid-19 related costs back to private markets. White House Covid-19 Response coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha said recently he hopes “that in 2023, you’re going to see the commercialization of almost all of these products.”

None of that means the vaccine leaders will fade quietly into the night:

  • In the private market, manufacturers will increase prices dramatically to offset lower volumes. Airfinity expects the cost of a vaccine dose to rise to $37, double 2021’s average. Moderna has hinted it could charge a whopping $100 per shot in the US. While vaccine volumes are expected to fall by 50%, overall revenue will drop just a fifth to $47 billion next year thanks to rising prices.
  • BioNTech is looking to use its war chest to continue bringing new products to market. In a BBC interview, professors Ugur Sahin and Ozlem Tureci – the German couple behind Pfizer’s vaccine – said its development has provided breakthrough research for a cancer vaccine that could be a reality “before 2030.”

Late to the party: While many pharmaceutical companies look forward to bigger and better developments, others are just arriving to the COVID frontier. Novavax released its vaccine in July and Sanofi/GSK aims to get their jab approved by the end of this year, but the two companies will likely struggle to gain market share as governments lift restrictions and pandemic paranoia wanes. There’s no vaccine for unlucky timing.