Wed | Oct 20, 2021

COVID-19 vaccine boosters could mean billions for drugmakers

Published:Saturday | September 25, 2021 | 12:03 PM
In this March 2021 photo provided by Pfizer, a technician works on a line for packaging preparation for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the company's facility in Puurs, Belgium. Billions more in profits are at stake for some vaccine makers as the U.S. moves toward dispensing COVID-19 booster shots to shore up Americans' protection against the virus.

Billions more in profits are at stake for some vaccine makers as the U.S. moves toward dispensing COVID-19 booster shots to shore up Americans' protection against the virus.

How much the manufacturers stand to gain depends on how big the rollout proves to be.

The Biden administration last month announced plans to give boosters to nearly everybody. But U.S. regulators have rejected the across-the-board approach and instead said third shots of Pfizer's vaccine should go to people who are 65 and older and certain others at high risk from COVID-19.

Still, the crisis is constantly evolving, and some top U.S. health officials expect boosters will be more broadly authorised in the coming weeks or months. And that, plus continued growth in initial vaccinations, could mean a huge gain in sales and profits for Pfizer and Moderna in particular.

“The opportunity quite frankly is reflective of the billions of people around the world who would need a vaccination and a boost,” Jefferies analyst Michael Yee said.

Wall Street is taking notice.

The average forecast among analysts for Moderna's 2022 revenue has jumped 35 per cent since President Joe Biden laid out his booster plan in mid-August.

Most of the vaccinations so far in the U.S. have come from Pfizer, which developed its shot with Germany's BioNTech, and Moderna. They have inoculated about 99 million and 68 million people, respectively. Johnson & Johnson is third with about 14 million people.

No one knows yet how many people will get the extra shots. But Morningstar analyst Karen Andersen expects boosters alone to bring in about $26 billion in global sales next year for Pfizer and BioNTech and around $14 billion for Moderna if they are endorsed for nearly all Americans.

Those companies also may gain business from people who got other vaccines initially.

In Britain, which plans to offer boosters to everyone over 50 and other vulnerable people, an expert panel has recommended that Pfizer's shot be the primary choice, with Moderna as the alternative.

Andersen expects Moderna, which has no other products on the market, to generate a roughly $13 billion profit next year from all COVID-19 vaccine sales if boosters are broadly authorised.

Potential vaccine profits are harder to estimate for Pfizer, but company executives have said they expect their pre-tax adjusted profit margin from the vaccine to be in the “high 20s” as a percentage of revenue. That would translate to a profit of around $7 billion next year just from boosters, based on Andersen's sales prediction.

J&J and Europe's AstraZeneca have said they don't intend to profit from their COVID-19 vaccines during the pandemic.

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