The $38B pie: Pfizer, Moderna COVID-19 vaccines set for lion's share of 2021 sales

With the first COVID-19 vaccinations expected to start in the coming weeks, 2021 is shaping up to be quite a year for the companies leading the vaccine race, with major blockbuster revenues on the line.

In fact, the top five players are set to divvy up about $38.5 billion in sales, Bernstein analysts figure, with the first-to-market companies reaping more than half of that. Pfizer, which just won U.K. approval Wednesday, is in line for $14.3 billion in COVID-19 vaccine sales next year, followed by $10.9 billion for Moderna, $6.4 billion for AstraZeneca, $3.9 billion for Novavax and $3 billion for Johnson & Johnson, according to the projections.

After a huge haul in 2021, the analysts predict the market will dwindle to around $6 billion in 2025, assuming vaccine recipients need a booster every three years. Along the way, the team of analysts project $23.1 billion in total COVID-19 vaccine sales in 2022, $12.6 billion in 2023 and $8.5 billion in 2024. But their model only accounts for those leading players right now.

Assuming “supply will flow to developed markets first with emerging markets given supply as demand ebbs in developed ones,” the analysts wrote, they expect the U.S. to reach herd immunity in June. Other developed markets such as the U.K., Canada, Japan and Europe should reach herd immunity in August or September, the Bernstein analysts wrote. 

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The latest figures are an update to the team's model based on Pfizer and Moderna’s recent success plus "lower confidence” in adeno-associated virus vaccines. That's due to a comparatively lower efficacy number for AstraZeneca’s vaccine and the company’s CEO Pascal Soriot recently commenting that it’ll need to conduct an “additional study” to win a U.S. nod. 

The team is further factoring in expectations for December launches and the most recent company commentary around prices and dose availability. 

The financial projections come at a time of remarkable success for COVID-19 vaccine research. On Wednesday, partners Pfizer and BioNTech scored the world’s first approval for a fully researched vaccine as the U.K. endorsed their shot. The partners plan to make around 800,000 doses available in the U.K. next week, The Guardian reports. The U.K. has placed an order for 40 million doses total. 

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Meanwhile, the partners are gearing up for a Dec. 10 meeting with independent FDA experts, and an FDA decision is expected to follow. The next closest player, Moderna, is set for a Dec. 17 meeting with the panel. The first vaccinations in the U.S. could start this month, officials have said.

While the Bernstein team expects U.S. herd immunity sometime next summer, Operation Warp Speed head Moncef Slaoui recently voiced even more ambitious expectations. Speaking with CNN last month, he said the U.S. could reach herd immunity by May based on the expected rate of vaccinations.