By Jared S. Hopkins and Matt Grossman
Pfizer Inc. raised this year's sales forecast for its Covid-19
vaccine to about $26 billion, a 73% increase that reflects the
shot's growing role in a long-term global vaccination campaign.
World-wide demand for Covid-19 vaccines will remain in force for
at least several years as people seek to maintain protection as the
virus circulates, Pfizer Chief Executive Albert Bourla said Tuesday
on an earnings conference call with analysts. Booster shots likely
will be needed some time at least six months after being
vaccinated, and then annually going forward, Mr. Bourla said.
Demand for vaccines still may accelerate, given that the push to
get shots in the arms of people around the world is shaping up as a
yearslong process with plenty of challenges, especially in poorer
countries, Mr. Bourla said. While the U.S. has vaccinated more than
40% of its adult population, much of the rest of the world is still
in the early phases of vaccinations.
The surge of coronavirus infections in developing countries such
as India amid a relative scarcity of vaccine supply means that the
pandemic will continue until mid-2022, according to U ur ahin,
chief executive of BioNTech SE, which co-developed Pfizer's
Demand for vaccinations has shown signs of leveling off in the
U.S., health officials say. CVS Health Co. said Tuesday that demand
for Covid-19 vaccinations has fallen by about 30% recently as
Americans' hesitancy to receive the shots outweighs expanding
eligibility and access.
The Biden administration said it would begin reallocating some
Covid-19 vaccine doses to states with higher demand for shots and
directing pharmacies to offer walk-in vaccinations, as the
president aims to get 70% of the adult population at least one dose
by July 4.
Pfizer said Tuesday it is working on making the two-dose shot
easier for vaccinators to administer and store. It also has begun
studying an updated version of the vaccine for the dangerous
variant first identified in South Africa.
The Pfizer vaccine is the most-administered of the three
Covid-19 vaccines cleared for use in the U.S. and increasingly is
available around the world. Pfizer raised its vaccine sales
forecast from $15 billion earlier this year as more countries sign
supply agreements amid the global vaccination effort.
"I couldn't be prouder of the way Pfizer has started 2021," Mr.
Bourla told analysts.
The two-dose shot contributed $3.5 billion to the company's
$14.6 billion overall sales during the first three months of the
year, Pfizer said.
Analysts cautioned that it is unclear how long Pfizer, which
splits Covid-19 vaccine sales with BioNTech, could sustain the
revenue at such a high level.
Mr. Bourla said in an interview that while testing is ongoing,
people probably will receive a booster shot of the original
vaccine, as opposed to the variant-targeting one Pfizer said it has
begun testing. He said that is because variants haven't been shown
to circumvent the vaccine.
"It doesn't seem like we need it, but we are testing it just in
case," he said of the updated vaccine. Pfizer expects initial study
results in July.
Pfizer and BioNTech have shipped more than 430 million doses to
more than 90 countries. These and other countries already are
lining up for more Pfizer supplies beyond 2021, Pfizer said. The
company said it has entered into agreements with Israel to supply
millions of doses next year and with Canada to supply up to 125
million doses in 2022 and 2023.
The rise of Covid-19 cases in India and elsewhere has led to
calls for the suspension of intellectual-property restrictions on
vaccines to help spur additional production. Mr. Bourla said in the
interview that such requests "don't make sense" because doing so
wouldn't result in more doses. "It is so wrong."
The limited number of doses reflects the fact that before the
pandemic, there weren't any approved products using the new
gene-based mRNA technology in the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, he said.
It is a production gap that Pfizer has been working to close since
the pandemic began. "There's no one that could do more within a
year, starting from scratch, " he said of Pfizer. Dictating the
sharing of patents would discourage biotech companies from
developing products for the next pandemic, he said.
To help get doses to the rest of the world, Pfizer said it is
selling the vaccine at lower prices or at cost to low- and
middle-income countries. Many of these countries expressed interest
only recently, and about one-third of the doses this year will be
for poorer countries, he said. The supply in the developed and
developing world will be more balanced by the end of the year, Mr.
Bourla said in the interview.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine isn't authorized in India. The
country's government asked Pfizer to do additional studies locally
after the drugmaker filed for regulatory approval months ago, Mr.
Bourla said on the analyst call. Pfizer wasn't prepared to comply
at the time, given that it was devoting its resources to studying
variants and whether the vaccine worked in children. Mr. Bourla
said he hopes India will change its study requirement, "so that we
can provide the vaccines."
Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine sales in 2021 still could exceed the
$26 billion forecast, which reflects the 1.6 billion doses that the
company is under contract to deliver. Pfizer and BioNTech say they
can manufacture up to 2.5 billion doses this year and at least
three billion next year.
Should the forecasted vaccine sales materialize, the
Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine would rank as one of the all-time
bestselling pharmaceutical products. The world's top-selling
prescription drug in recent years has been AbbVie Inc.'s
anti-inflammatory drug Humira, which sold nearly $20 billion in
Pfizer said it would ask the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
this month for full-approval of the Covid-19 vaccine for use in
people 16 years and older, which would allow the company to market
the vaccine directly to the public. The FDA authorized the shot in
December on an emergency basis, citing the urgency of the pandemic
and the company's need to collect at least six months of data on
subjects from its 44,000-person pivotal study.
Pfizer said it expects in July initial results of a study
evaluating whether it is advisable to give people a third dose of
the vaccine. The company said it plans later that month to seek
emergency authorization of the additional dose.
Pfizer said it is working on ways to make the vaccine more
accessible and easier to handle, and expects to ask the U.S. to
approve in August a "ready to use" format that would eliminate the
need to mix the vaccine with diluent. The change would make it
possible to store the vaccine at warmer temperatures, which could
help small and rural vaccination sites.
Write to Jared S. Hopkins at email@example.com and Matt
Grossman at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
May 04, 2021 18:43 ET (22:43 GMT)
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