COVID-19 vaccine makers are shifting gears and planning for a smaller, more competitive booster market after delivering doses as quickly as they could for the past 18 months.
Executives from the biggest COVID vaccine makers, including Pfizer and Moderna, said they believe most people who want to get a COVID shot have already done so — more than five billion people worldwide.
Over the coming year, most COVID vaccinations will be boosters, or first inoculations for children, which are still getting regulatory approvals around the world, they said.
Pfizer, which is trying its luck with Germany’s BioNTech, and Moderna still see themselves playing major roles in the vaccine market, even as overall demand declines.
US vaccine maker Novavax and Germany’s CureVac, which works with GlaxoSmithKline, are developing vaccines they hope to target in the booster market.
The roles of AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, whose moves have been less popular or effective, are expected to decline in this market.
“It’s becoming a very competitive game with companies battling for price and market share, even for vaccines considered the best, like Pfizer and Moderna,” said Hartaj Singh, an analyst at investment bank Oppenheimer. & Co.
The demand will probably come from the “already vaccinated”
It is not yet known how many booster doses will be needed. Second booster shots are currently only recommended in some countries for a subset of the population.
It’s also unclear whether vaccine makers will sell a redesigned vaccine this fall and every fall thereafter, as flu vaccine makers do to match circulating strains, and what impact that might have on the decline in demand.
WATCH | Canadians urged to get boosters to blunt 6th wave:
Pfizer chief executive Albert Bourla said in an interview that unvaccinated adults are unlikely to get vaccinated now, more than two years into the pandemic.
It will be the “already vaccinated” who will count for demand, Bourla said.
Moderna executives recently said those who would benefit from an annual boost include people over 50 and adults with other risk factors or high-risk occupations, including healthcare workers. .
Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel estimated that population at around 1.7 billion people, or around 21% of the world’s population.
Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech, which make messenger RNA vaccines that can be updated somewhat faster than competitors, said they were developing vaccines targeting the Omicron variant of the virus.
The United States and Western Europe – where around 600 million people are vaccinated – will remain important markets, but sales could be only a fraction of what they have been, said Tyler Van Buren, analyst at Cowen Investment Bank.
Van Buren said the people who will continue to seek regular boosters are those at high risk of exposure and serious consequences due to underlying medical conditions, which he says make up 20-25% of the population.
That would be significantly less than the roughly 49% of adults in the United States and 62% of adults in Europe who have received at least one booster so far, or a total of around 335 million people.
Analysts predict revenues of more than US$17 billion for the Pfizer/BioNTech coup and $10 billion for Moderna in 2023, about half of the $34 billion and $23 billion they forecast this year , respectively. Sales are expected to decline further from there.