COVID-19 Vaccine Pioneer Moderna Faces Financial Challenge as Pandemic Eases

Fourth-quarter sales, profit likely plunged as vaccination rates increase

Person receiving a COVID vaccine

Marco Govel / Stocksy

Key Takeaways

  • Analysts foresee a significant profit drop for COVID-19 vaccine pioneer Moderna for the latest quarter and this year, along with substantial 2024 losses as pandemic vaccination rates rise.
  • Almost three-quarters of the global population now has received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose.
  • Weekly COVID cases and deaths have reached the lowest level since early March 2020, when the pandemic erupted.

Net income at COVID-19 vaccine pioneer Moderna Inc. (MRNA) likely fell by 72% in its recently completed fourth quarter amid reduced demand for shots after last year's global vaccination push.

The company's profit probably fell to $1.8 billion, or $3.74 per share on an adjusted basis, from $4.9 billion, or $11.39 per share, in the same period a year ago, according to estimates from Visible Alpha. Revenue likely dropped 31% to $5 billion from $7.2 billion in the year-ago quarter.

Moderna's Key Stats
  Q4 2022 (est)  Q4 2021  Q4 2020
 Adjusted EPS/(loss)  $3.74  $11.39  ($0.64)
 Revenue  $5 bln  $7.2 bln  $571 mln
 R&D expense $1.1 bln  $633 mln   $743 mln

Source: Visible Alpha

The anticipated results reflect both higher overall vaccination rates and steadily declining infection trends worldwide compared with a year ago.

Expecting those trends to persist, Visible Alpha's consensus forecast projects a marginal loss for the company in the current quarter and substantial profit decline for the full year.

Analysts also forecast about $2 billion in losses next year, particularly as the company boosts its research and development (R&D) efforts to expand beyond its COVID-19 vaccine reliance.

Vaccine Saturation

Investors for many months foresaw falling profits for Moderna. Despite a 52% gain in the fourth quarter, the company's stock still concluded 2022 with a 29% loss and has slid a further 7% so far this year. By comparison, the benchmark S&P 500 Biotechnology Index gained 19% in the fourth quarter and 13% in 2022.

Moderna's 1-year stock performance


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first authorized Moderna's mRNA COVID-19 vaccine for use in mid-December 2020. Its revenue in that quarter shot up to $570.8 million from a $14.1 million the previous year and reached $1.9 billion the next quarter amid the vaccine's speedy rollout.

However, as vaccination rates increased, revenue decreased on a quarter-to-quarter basis in each of the first three quarters of 2022.

An estimated 72% of the world's population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, with that figure climbing to 82% in North America and 94% in China. As those percentages have increased, the number of administered doses has fallen.

In the U.S., vaccinations peaked in mid-April 2021 at 3.4 million doses administered each day. A year later, that figure had declined to about 525,000 and dropped steadily throughout the remainder of 2022.

Doses increased slightly in the fourth quarter in the U.S., Germany, Brazil, and Australia. among other areas. That coincided with the number of COVID-19 cases worldwide spiking to an all-time weekly high of 44.3 million in mid-December.

But cases have fallen as quickly as they rose, with just 567,486 confirmed worldwide last week. Meanwhile, global COVID-19 deaths, totaling 50,000 to 100,000 each week for much of 2021 and early 2022, totaled 2,800 last week—the lowest since early March 2020, when the pandemic erupted.

Omicron Boosters Not Expected to Stall Sales Decline

Declining death rates from COVID-19 even during periodic spikes in confirmed cases seem to verify what public health officials long have touted: Vaccines can help both to guard against and reduce the severity of infection.

Meanwhile, Moderna has developed updated vaccines and boosters targeting more effective protection against new Omicron variants that now appear to surface routinely.

The FDA authorized use of those versions in late August, likely helping boost company's overall vaccine sales in the fourth quarter by 49% from the third quarter.

Analysts, though, expect that advance will be short-lived: Visible Alpha projects revenue of $1.8 billion in the current quarter, the lowest since the quarter in which the FDA first authorized COVID-19 vaccines for public use. On a year-to-year basis, Moderna's sales likely will fall 20% to 70% in each quarter of 2023.

Article Sources
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  1. CNBC. "How the Moderna COVID-19 mRNA Vaccine Was Made So Quickly."

  2. The New York Times. "Tracking Coronavirus Vaccinations Around the World."

  3. Bloomberg. "More than 12.7 Billion Shots Given: COVID-19 Tracker."

  4. World Health Organization. "WHO Coronavirus (COVID-19) Dashboard."

  5. NPR. "FDA Authorizes First Revamp of COVID Vaccines To Target Omicron."

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