AstraZeneca's COVID vaccine sales reached $4B last year, but don't expect that much in 2022

There’s been lots of pain and some gain as AstraZeneca has worked to develop and supply a vaccine and medicine to combat COVID-19.

With vaccine sales of $1.76 billion in the fourth quarter, the final tally for its COVID products in 2021 reached $4 billion. But the company warned (PDF) not to expect a similar performance this year, projecting a revenue percentage drop in the low-to-mid 20s for the franchise.

While AZ anticipates sales of the vaccine to decline, those losses will be offset in small measure by an increase in sales of its antibody treatment Evusheld, which the FDA authorized in December. Both remain effective against the omicron variant, the company said.

“The majority of vaccine revenues in 2022 is expected to come from not-for-profit contracts,” AZ CFO Aradhana Sarin said during a conference call. “As expected, the gross profit margin from the COVID-19 medicines is expected to be lower than the company average.”

AZ declined to break down individually how much it expects to sell of its two COVID products.

“We don’t typically guide by product,” said AZ CEO Pascal Soriot, who added that many doses of Evusheld will be delivered to the United States at a lower price in exchange for its funding of the antibodies.

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Later in the year, AZ will be able to provide more clarity on what it expects from sales of COVID products as it moves into a “commercial” stage, Soriot added.

Additionally, AZ said that it still expects to file for FDA approval of its vaccine in the first half of this year, a milestone it had hoped to accomplish in the first half of last year.

The domination of mRNA vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna have come at the expense of AstraZeneca’s shot, which got off to a rough start in 2021. Early in the vaccine rollouts, the program was plagued by supply problems and reports of rare but serious blood clots.

The company worked through those setbacks and has supplied the world more than 2.6 billion vaccine doses, with approximately two-thirds going to low- and middle-income countries. After selling the shot at cost, the company said in November that it would take in a modest profit in sales to wealthy countries.

“It’s hard to regret anything when you’ve delivered 2.6 billion doses and saved a million lives around the world and enabled economies in many countries to restart,” Soriot said.

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COVID sales helped fuel significant growth for the company in 2021 as revenues reached $37.4 billion, an increase of 38% from 2020. Soriot was quick to point out that excluding COVID-19 vaccine sales, revenues would still be up 23%.

Soriot pointed to “five of our medicines crossing new blockbuster thresholds” as a key reason for the ex-COVID growth. Those included lymphoma drug Calquence and asthma med Fasenra, which generated $1.2 billion each during 2021.