MANAS MISHRA and MICHAEL ERMAN
PFIZER Inc yesterday raised its forecast for 2021 COVID-19 vaccine sales by more than 70% to $26 billion and said demand from governments around the world trying to halt the pandemic could contribute to its growth for years to come.
The company said it expects by the end of this month to file for full approval of the vaccine for people over the age of 16 in the United States, where it is currently only authorized for emergency use. It also expects to hear soon from U.S. regulators on the expansion of the vaccine’s emergency use authorization (EUA) for children ages 12-15.
Revenue from the vaccine – developed with German partner BioNTech SE – is expected to account for more than one third of Pfizer’s full-year sales this year.
The forecast is based on already signed contracts for 1.6 billion vaccine doses to be delivered this year. The company said it expects to sign more deals for this year and is in supply talks with several countries for 2022 and beyond.
“Based on what we’ve seen, we believe that a durable demand for our COVID-19 vaccine – similar to that of the flu vaccines – is a likely outcome,” Chief Executive Albert Bourla said.
The two-shot vaccine was Pfizer’s top-selling product in the first quarter. Expenses and profit from the vaccine are split 50-50 between Pfizer and BioNTech.
Given persistent infections globally and ongoing discussions with governments, Mizuho analyst Vamil Divan said the 2021 forecast could increase further and also spill over to latter years.
Daily vaccination rates for adults in the United States have started to slow, off more than 25% since hitting a peak in mid-April. Authorization in younger children would expand the vaccine-eligible population by millions of people.
Pfizer said it expects to have safety and efficacy data for children ages 2-to-11 in September, when it plans to ask for further expansion of the EUA for that age group.
Pfizer and BioNTech aim to produce up to 2.5 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses this year, 900 million of which are not yet included in the New York-based drugmaker’s sales forecast.
If Pfizer sells that number of doses at similar prices, the vaccine’s sales in 2021 could be more than 50% above the projected $26 billion.
Moderna In has forecast $18.4 billion in 2021 sales of its similar COVID-19 vaccine.
Pfizer has said it expects to profit from the vaccine, while some drugmakers including Johnson & Johnson have said their vaccine will be sold on a not-for-profit basis until the end of the pandemic.
Pfizer aims to manufacture at least 3 billion doses of the vaccine next year. It generated $3.5 billion in revenue in the first quarter, exceeding analysts’ estimates of $3.28 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.
Total revenue for the quarter of $14.6 billion, topped analyst forecasts of $13.5 billion.
Pfizer could use the vaccine profit to invest in research and development of other treatments and on deals to spur future growth, said Edward Jones analyst Ashtyn Evans.
The company already said it is boosting R&D spending to fuel drug discovery using the messenger RNA technology in the COVID-19 vaccine. The company is developing two flu vaccines that are expected to enter clinical trials in the third quarter.
Pfizer shares were up slightly in morning trading.