With the competition struggling, Pfizer's COVID vaccine sales could hit $24B this year: analyst

Messenger RNA COVID-19 vaccines are sailing along as viral vector shots encounter setback after setback. How will the recent headlines affect vaccine sales in 2021?

In his weekly notes to investors, Bernstein analyst Ronny Gal offered eye-popping revenue estimates for the mRNA shots from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. He sees the Pfizer team picking up $24 billion in revenues this year, compared with $14 billion for Moderna.

Why such a difference? It’s about Pfizer and BioNTech’s more extensive manufacturing network, Gal wrote to clients Monday.

The adjusted prediction comes after safety concerns compelled officials in the U.S. to pause use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine last week. The vaccine's rollout had been anxiously anticipated, because it was less expensive and could be administered in a single dose. 

Not long into the rollout, though, reports of rare and serious blood clots prompted officials to pause use of the vaccine and investigate.

Those safety concerns have raised questions about future sales for the J&J vaccine and for viral vector COVID-19 vaccines in general. AstraZeneca’s virally vectored shot has also been plagued by blood clot concerns, in addition to manufacturing holdups. Last week, Europe said it would not renew contracts with the two companies after this year.

Moving forward, Gal and his team updated their sales projections with the assumption that no J&J or AZ vaccines will be delivered to the U.S. beyond the 100 million doses America has already purchased. It also assumes that most booster doses administered in the fall in the U.S. will be from mRNA vaccine manufacturers.

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Concurrent with the pause of the J&J vaccine last week, Pfizer agreed to accelerate delivery of shots to the U.S. and Europe.

Additionally, during the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices meeting last week, the group cited the available supply of mRNA vaccines as one reason not to rush a decision on the J&J shot.

By the fourth quarter, Gal and his team see industrywide COVID-19 vaccine revenues reaching more than $18 billion per quarter. The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna shots will account for roughly $11 billion of that amount, the team figures, with the remaining revenue split equally between J&J, AZ and Novavax.

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Novavax has yet to win approval for its protein subunit vaccine in the U.S. or Europe, but it has secured substantial manufacturing capacity to produce it and signed contracts to supply it.