Big Pharma is set to sell $40 billion worth of COVID-19 vaccines in 2021

Piroschka van de Wouw/Pool via APA healthcare worker in the Netherlands is given the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on January 6.
  • The nascent COVID-19 vaccine market could bring drugmakers $US40 billion in sales in 2021, according to Bernstein analysts.
  • Pfizer and Moderna, the two drugmakers to have their COVID-19 vaccines authorised by the FDA, will sell $US28 billion this year, in revenues that will likely decrease by next year.
  • Pfizer, who will split its profits with German partner BioNTech, has signed on to supply the US’s Operation Warp Speed vaccine efforts at the cost of $US19.50 per shot, according to Bloomberg Intelligence calculations. 1.3 billion doses are expected to be manufactured globally by the end of 2021.
  • The US has agreed to buy 200 million doses of Moderna’s vaccine at about $US15.30 per shot. The company expects to produce between 600 million and 1 billion doses this year.
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Pfizer and Moderna, the two US drugmakers who have secured FDA authorization for their COVID-19 vaccines, could bring in anywhere from $US28 billion to $US32 billion from vaccine revenue in 2021, according to several Wall Street estimates.

On Wednesday, the EU also authorised Moderna’s vaccine, putting both companies on even ground in vaccinating consumers in the two largest developed markets.

According to Bernstein analyst Ronny Gal, the companies will lead the estimated $US40 billion global COVID-19 vaccine market this year, with Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca, Novavax, and others trailing behind. Bernstein’s latest research report models Pfizer making $US14.3 billion and Moderna $US13.5 billion in vaccine sales in 2021 for a combined $US28 billion. In December, Morgan Stanley estimated $US32 billion estimate for Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccine-related 2021 revenues.

Although there is potential for an ongoing market through boosters, revenue is unlikely to be long-lasting unless the virus evolves to become resistant.


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The US government is buying hundreds of millions of vaccine doses

According to Bloomberg Intelligence calculations, the US has agreed to buy Pfizer’s vaccine doses at a price of $US19.50 a dose, while the US is paying Moderna about $US15.30 per dose, with similar rates of effectiveness in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 and reducing the risk of severe COVID-19.

The US government plans to have the vaccine available at no additional cost to all Americans, though distribution efforts have continued to be limited by limited supply and logistical concerns. Additionally, neither vaccine has been definitely proven to prevent transmission of the virus.

Pfizer and Moderna have received manufacturing contracts from the US government through Operation Warp Speed.

First announced in April, Operation Warp Speed’s goal, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, is to help develop, manufacture, and distribute 300 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, with initial doses available by January of this year.

Through Operation Warp Speed, Pfizer and Moderna have secured contracts to supply the US with billions of COVID-19 mRNA vaccine doses by the end of 2021. Moderna received funding for vaccine research and development, while Pfizer’s project took no US government funding for its vaccine development.

Both vaccines require two doses, with Pfizer-BioNTech requiring ultra-cold storage, a logistical hurdle that has hampered rollout so far. A transportation temperature-related “anomaly” in mid-December, during the first stages of rollout, forced state and local officials in California and Alabama to send Pfizer doses back for replacements.

It’s unclear what the COVID-19 vaccine market looks like beyond 2022

With vaccine rollout well underway despite significant hurdles and uneven distribution in the U.S. and elsewhere, analysts have already begun modelling what the COVID-19 vaccine market would look like in 2022 and beyond.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine stands to add from $US9.4 billion to $US27.2 billion in net present value for both Pfizer and BioNTech, depending on if a COVID-19 becomes an annual vaccine, similar to the one for the seasonal flu, according to a January 4 research report by Bloomberg Intelligence.

With so many known unknowns, including a new, more contagious variant of the virus initially found in the UK, there is significant uncertainty as to whether the COVID-19 vaccine market will be substantive beyond the end of 2022.

Reports from Morgan Stanley and Bernstein remain sceptical of COVID-19 vaccine driving pharma revenue beyond that time scale.

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