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Pfizer raises 2021 outlook on surging Covid-19 vaccine sales

The US drugmaker estimates delivering 2.1 billion doses of vaccine, generating US$33.5 billion in sales.

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A woman walks past the Pfizer world headquarters in New York on Nov 9, 2020. Photo: AP
A woman walks past the Pfizer world headquarters in New York on Nov 9, 2020. Photo: AP

Pfizer lifted its annual revenue and profit projections Wednesday as it forecast the delivery of 500 million more Covid-19 vaccine doses compared with earlier expectations.

The two-shot inoculation accounted for more than 40% of Pfizer’s sales in the second quarter, lifting revenues sharply compared with the year-ago period.

Pfizer chief executive Albert Bourla said more than a billion doses of the vaccine have been delivered, saying “the speed and efficiency of our efforts with BioNTech to help vaccinate the world against Covid-19 have been unprecedented”.

The US drugmaker, which has partnered with Germany’s BioNTech on the vaccine, now estimates delivering 2.1 billion doses, generating US$33.5 billion in sales.

The company’s May forecast was for US$26 billion in sales on 1.6 billion doses for the year.

Pfizer said the pre-tax profit margin on the Covid-19 vaccine sales was in the “high-20s” in terms of percent, the same as the earlier forecast.

Those profit margins have raised the ire of NGOs such as Public Citizen, which has accused Pfizer of “profiteering” on the pandemic and called on world leaders to launch a multi-billion dollar campaign to build vaccine manufacturing capacity and “vaccinate the world”.

In the second quarter, Pfizer reported profits of US$5.6 billion, up 59% from the year-ago period on a 92% increase in revenues to US$19 billion.

Recent commercial developments for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine venture include a May agreement with the European Union, a June deal with the US for 500 million doses to donate to the poorest countries and a letter of intent signed in July with the Biovac Institute to manufacture the vaccine in Africa.

Pfizer has launched clinical studies on a possible third dose of the Covid-19 vaccine as a booster shot. Bourla has said such boosters could amount to a “durable” revenue stream for the company.

US health officials have thus far not backed a third shot for the broad population, but officials are studying the need for a third shot in immunocompromised people.

Questions about boosters come as US health officials are adjusting policies in light of the Delta variant of the coronavirus.

On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shifted course and directed people vaccinated against Covid-19 in high-risk parts of the US to resume wearing masks indoors.

According to the latest CDC data, much of the southern US is experiencing high or substantial transmission, while highly vaccinated parts of the Northeast are mostly experiencing moderate rates of community transmission.

Shares of Pfizer rose 0.9% to US$42.47 in pre-market trading.