Vials with a sticker reading, "COVID-19 / Coronavirus vaccine / Injection only" and a medical syringe are seen in front of a displayed Pfizer logo in this illustration taken October 31 2020. Picture: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC
Vials with a sticker reading, "COVID-19 / Coronavirus vaccine / Injection only" and a medical syringe are seen in front of a displayed Pfizer logo in this illustration taken October 31 2020. Picture: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC

Pfizer said it expected about $15bn in revenue in 2021 from the Covid-19 vaccine it developed with BioNTech, a sign of returns to come from the industry’s pandemic response efforts.

The vaccine projection primarily includes doses that are expected to be delivered in 2021 under existing contracts, Pfizer said on Tuesday as it reported fourth-quarter earnings. The forecast may be adjusted in the future as additional contracts are reached.

Pfizer is commanding a higher price for its vaccine than some rivals. Under the terms of its supply deal with the US, it is charging $19.50 for each shot of the two-dose regimen. Rival AstraZeneca, which hasn’t yet gained authorisation for its vaccine in the US, has said it plans to charge less than $4 per dose.

Excluding its vaccine sales, the drugmaker said it expects 2021 full-year revenue of $44.4bn-$46.4bn. Annual earnings per share will be $3.10 to $3.20. CEO Albert Bourla said earlier in January that earnings would top out at $3.10 a share. The guidance was raised primarily because of its shifting vaccine forecast, according to the company.

Shares of the New York-based company were little changed in premarket trading on Tuesday. Through the close on Monday, the stock lost 2.7% so far in 2021.

Vaccine sales

Pfizer’s newly authorised Covid-19 vaccine brought in $154m in sales in the fourth quarter. The two-dose regimen based on a new technology known as messenger RNA was cleared for emergency use in the US, UK and EU in December.

Pfizer and German partner BioNTech initially expected to produce 1.3-billion doses of the vaccine, known BNT162b2, in 2021. They later boosted their output goal by more than 50% to two-billion doses after a label change allowed doctors to extract six doses instead of five from each vial, and they secured additional manufacturing capacity. The boon to supply will certainly add to the companies’ sales.

Pfizer and BioNTech have reached agreements totaling 836-million doses, according to Bloomberg’s Vaccine Tracker, including 300-million for the EU and 200-million for the US. Pfizer remains in discussions with governments around the world about new deals and exercising additional options, Bourla said last week in an interview.

The drug giant’s overall fourth-quarter figures were anticipated to be messy as it explains how earnings stack up year-over-year following the fourth-quarter spinoff of its off-patent drug unit, Upjohn, into a combined company with Mylan now known as Viatris.

Innovation focused

The new, slimmed-down Pfizer brought in $11.7bn. Its major blockbusters, including the cancer drug Ibrance, the anticoagulant Eliquis, and the Prevnar vaccine franchise drove much of the company’s growth.

Pfizer spent more than $9bn on research and development, including on its pandemic response efforts, in 2020. Bourla cited the company’s “decade-long conversion into a pure-play, science and innovation-focused company”, for the company’s progress.

“Our record-breaking success at developing a vaccine against Covid-19, along with our partner BioNTech, is just one example of what we believe this new Pfizer is capable of achieving,” he said in the statement.

Bloomberg

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