Less severe omicron reduces estimated vaccine sales

A queue to get vaccinated in Mexico City.

(Bloomberg) — Evidence that omicron causes less severe disease than earlier Covid-19 variants will likely slow growth in vaccine sales this year as wealthier countries rein in purchases, according to Airfinity Ltd.

Sales of Covid vaccines, excluding those to China and India, will rise to about $85 billion in 2022, down 28% from an earlier estimate of $118 billion, London-based Airfinity said on Friday. The revision was also due to lower prices paid by poorer nations that are finally getting vaccines, the analytics firm said.

Omicron has spread rapidly around the world, but appears less likely to cause hospitalizations and deaths than earlier variants like delta, which was displaced by omicron in just weeks. While health experts warn that the global crisis is not over and significant risks remain, optimism for temporary relief from the pandemic is likely to limit vaccine purchases by wealthier countries, Airfinity said in a statement.

Dose demand continues to rise and booster programs in high-income countries will be a key factor, according to Airfinity, which estimates sales to rise nearly 30% in 2022 from $66 billion last year. In an interview with Bloomberg TV last week, Stéphane Bancel, CEO of Moderna Inc., said he anticipated another booster dose would be needed in the third quarter.

Moderna could see about $26 billion in sales this year, while Pfizer Inc. and its German partner BioNTech SE may generate about $43 billion, Airfinity estimates. AstraZeneca Plc is expected to generate $4.3 billion in vaccine revenue, Airfinity said.

Those estimates differ from those of the drugmakers themselves. Pfizer has forecast $31 billion in sales of Covid vaccines in 2022. Moderna said Jan. 10 that it expects vaccine sales to be $18.5 billion along with a potential $3.5 billion from boosters and other purchases. Airfinity took existing contracts into account, according to lead analyst Matt Linley, and its estimates apply primarily to how factors like omicron severity will affect additional purchases this year.

Many people in low- and middle-income countries remain unvaccinated, keeping demand high in some regions. While two-thirds of people in rich countries had received at least one dose as of last week, only 11% in low-income countries had received one.

Health officials and scientists have said it is too early to say whether Covid is becoming a persistent, endemic disease like the flu, adding that variants continue to pose a risk. There’s no guarantee Covid will continue to trend toward less severe illness, and big health foundations are funding efforts to help prepare for emerging variants.

However, omicron may dampen demand in richer nations, while doses are sold at discounted prices in poorer regions. Countries that can provide the fourth dose are likely to focus on the most vulnerable groups rather than the general population, Linley said.

original note:

Less-Threatening Omicron Lowers Covid Vaccine Sales Estimate (1)

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