Pfizer's Updated COVID-19 Vaccine Effective Against Omicron, Could Boost Sales

The pharmaceutical company could see an uptick in vaccine sales

Pfizer Inc. (PFE) has seen major success with its COVID-19 vaccine, developed jointly with BioNTech SE (BNTX). The company anticipates $32 billion in revenues from the vaccine for all of 2022. But as the Omicron variant of the virus has spread globally in recent months, studies have shown that protection against the disease wanes over time. Now, Pfizer has announced this week positive data regarding safety, tolerability, and immunogenicity of two COVID-19 vaccine candidates that have been adapted to protect primarily against the Omicron BA.1 variant. These candidates would be given as a fourth booster if approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to address ongoing Omicron surges. In the process, this could further boost Pfizer's sales from an expanding number of treatments related to COVID-19.

Key Takeaways

  • Pfizer announced positive data for safety, tolerability, and immunogenicity of two COVID-19 vaccine candidates adapted to address primarily the Omicron BA.1 variant.
  • If approved by the FDA, these candidates could help to combat Omicron surges globally while further boosting Pfizer's sales of COVID-19 vaccines.
  • In its Q1 2022 earnings report, Pfizer forecast $32 billion in COVID-19 vaccine sales for all of 2022.
  • Pfizer's $32 billion forecast was based only on existing sales contracts at the time, and revenue could grow depending on both the success of a fourth booster and how much COVID-19 continues to spread globally.

Omicron-Adapted Vaccine and Child-Approved Regimen

Pfizer says that its Omicron-adapted vaccine elicits a significantly higher immune response against the Omicron variant than the company's current COVID-19 vaccine. While the boost is highest for the BA.1 subvariant, preliminary studies show that both candidates also neutralize Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants to a lesser extent. For the week ending June 25, 2022, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found the Omicron BA.2.12.1 and BA.5 subvariants to be among the most commonly circulating across the U.S.

Since first launching its original COVID-19 vaccine, Pfizer's line of products for treating the disease has expanded. In December 2021, the company received Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the FDA for Paxlovid, its oral antiviral treatment for COVID-19. In June 2022, the company received EUA from the FDA for a three-dose regimen of its COVID-19 vaccine, at a reduced dosage, for children as young as 6 months.

Potential Impact on Pfizer's Business

Pfizer's sales already have soared in recent quarters due to the global spike in demand for COVID-19 vaccines. Now, a new Omicron-adapted booster from Pfizer could build on sales fueled by the Paxlovid oral treatment and vaccines for young children. To date, around 594 million total doses of COVID-19 vaccines (made by Pfizer and other suppliers) have been administered in the U.S. More than 12 billion have been given worldwide. Pfizer's $32 billion estimate of COVID-19 vaccine sales for 2022 was based on contracts already signed as of the company's Q1 2022 earnings report. But Pfizer's sales could rise further if the company receives regulatory approval for an Omicron-adapted booster, and if COVID-19 continues to spread.

The global economy has gradually reopened following government-mandated shutdowns in nations across the globe. While curfews and other limits remain in many countries, broad shutdowns have been sparse in recent months, except in select regions and countries such as China. However, studies have shown that there is an increased risk of COVID-19 reinfection associated with Omicron. This may be a sign that future COVID-19 surges may continue to affect many parts of the world. If this is the case, Pfizer sales of Omicron-adapted boosters may further increase its revenue from COVID-19 treatments.

Bottom Line

Pfizer announced in late June that two candidates for an Omicron-adapted COVID-19 vaccine showed effectiveness against the Omicron BA.1 variant and, to a lesser extent, to other subvariants. If approved by the FDA, these candidates could be used as a fourth booster in the company's COVID-19 vaccine series. Sales of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine have already been significant, and approval could further boost those figures.

Article Sources
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  7. Bloomberg. "More Than 12 Billion Shots Given: Covid-19 Tracker."

  8. Financial Times. "Lockdowns compared: tracking governments’ coronavirus responses."

  9. Science. "Increased risk of SARS-CoV-2 reinfection associated with emergence of Omicron in South Africa."

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