Pfizer whittles down US donation deal as global COVID-19 vaccine demand slumps

As the appetite for Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine wanes overseas, the United States has reportedly whittled down its order for donations to poorer countries this year.

Pfizer has agreed to scale back its delivery to 600 million doses by the end of 2022, down from a previous 1 billion-dose pledge with the U.S., Reuters and other news outlets reported Friday.

Last June, Pfizer and its German mRNA partner BioNTech sold the U.S. government 500 million doses of their COVID-19 vaccine at cost for donation to around 100 low- and middle-income countries. Pfizer and the feds added another 500 million doses to that commitment in September 2021.

Even with the reduction, the U.S. still has an option to buy another 400 million Pfizer doses for the donation program after 2022, Reuters pointed out.

Pfizer told Reuters it has supplies on-hand to deliver the full 1 billion doses under its prior commitment, but noted it’s “seeing reduced demand in some low- and lower-middle-income countries due to barriers in administration and vaccine hesitancy.” The company did not immediately respond to Fierce Pharma’s request for comment.

It remains unclear whether any financial terms of the deal were altered, Bloomberg noted. The news service cited a U.S. government document it had obtained listing the original price of the 1 billion Pfizer doses as $6.9 billion.

The U.S.’ vaccine donation slimdown doesn’t come as a huge shock, given widespread reports of plummeting COVID-19 prophylactic demand around the globe.  

Earlier this year, Pfizer also delayed European deliveries of its original Comirnaty shot for June through August by three months. The change was intended to buy officials time to secure variant-adapted vaccines then awaiting authorization.

While Pfizer and its partner BioNTech have held firm on sales expectations for their shot, some analysts have already scaled back their hopes. Earlier this month, a team at ODDO BHF slashed their forecasts for BioNTech’s 2022 and 2023 COVID vaccine sales by 28% and 33%, respectively.

Reckoning with the drop in demand, the ODDO team pointed out that “large parts of the world have decided to live with the virus, like with the flu virus.” They also flagged the fact that COVID-19 mortality rates in the developed world have dropped to “the influenza level or even below.”

Separately, Pfizer this week pledged to supply 6 million treatment courses of Paxlovid to Global Fund, which could help make the oral antiviral accessible across some 132 low- and middle-income countries.

Pfizer “expects supply to be available starting in 2022, pending regulatory authorization or approval and based on country demand,” the company said in a release.