Just how much COVID-19 vaccine money is on the table? A whopping $157B through 2025, report says

coronavirus vaccine
COVID-19 vaccine prices will fall dramatically, from an average of $22 per dose in 2021 to $9 per dose in 2023, one of the factors the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science used to project total global spending on coronavirus vaccines. (nevodka/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

Drugmakers who seized the opportunity to develop vaccines against the coronavirus are on their way to reaping significant revenues.

Exactly how much money is on the table?

In its annual forecast for global drug spending, the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science put the figure at $157 billion through 2025.

It’s one of the many intriguing projections in this edition of IQVIA's annual drug spending forecast, the group’s first since the coronavirus pandemic put the worldwide economy on tilt.

For example, IQVIA projects global spending on medicines to reach $1.6 trillion by 2025, an increase from $1.25 trillion in 2019, representing annual growth of 3% to 6%. The $1.6 trillion figure does not include spending on coronavirus vaccines.

“We reflect what we expect to be happening over the next five years in terms of the drivers of change in demand for medicines and spending on medicines,” IQVIA executive director Murray Aitken explained in an interview.

In regard to global COVID-19 vaccine spending, IQVIA projects roughly $53 billion this year and $51 billion in 2022. The group sees a precipitous drop in total spending in 2023, to roughly $23 billion. 

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The spending decrease over time can be attributed mostly to a drop in price rather than demand, Aitken said. While IQVIA puts the average cost per dose at $22 this year and $19 in 2022, Aitken sees prices falling to approximately $9 per dose by 2023, then to $7 by 2024 and all the way to $5 by 2025.

“We think the prices will keep coming down as we get beyond this immediate period of trying to get everyone vaccinated,” Aitken said. “There are 11 vaccines in use in one part of the world or the other and there may be more coming, so we can expect that prices will decline over time.”

Other factors that will influence global vaccine spending include an increased availability of single-shot options, an increased supply to developing countries and the need for booster shots for those who have already been vaccinated.

In coming to its estimates, IQVIA also took into consideration planned global manufacturing capacity, vaccinations to date, announced rollout strategies and company contracts.

The group assumed an average of 1.8 vaccine doses per person this year and next. From 2023 to 2025, when boosters will presumably be in use and more single-shot vaccinations will be available, IQVIA shifts the average to 1.3 doses per person.

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Another assumption in the model: IQVIA believes that by the end this year, 40% of the world’s population will be in countries that have achieved herd mentality. By the end of 2022, 70% of the world’s population will be vaccinated.

For the purpose of the estimate, IQVIA also assumed one-shot boosters on a two-year cycle in the 2023 to 2025 period, though this issue has yet to be resolved by vaccine producers.

Making projections during a pandemic is risky business, IQVIA admits in its report. 

“The impact of COVID-19 defied expectations throughout 2020 but the evolution from pandemic to endemic is reasonably certain even if the interplay between vaccination levels and periodic outbreaks around the world remains challenging to predict," the group said.