Pfizer boosts COVID vaccine projection to $34B on the back of strong Comirnaty haul

Uptake of Pfizer’s omicron-adjusted COVID-19 booster may be progressing slowly this fall in the U.S., but the company is still raking in impressive sales of its vaccine, co-developed by BioNTech.

In the third quarter, Comirnaty accounted for $4.4 billion in sales, including $2.9 billion in the U.S. With the result, Pfizer bumped up its projection for COVID vaccine sales for the year by $2 billion to a total of $34 billion. It also adjusted its annual revenue projection for the company overall to a range of between $99.5 and $102 billion.

The performance of Comirnaty surprised Wall Street analysts and came in a quarter during which the company amended its vaccine supply agreement with the EU, reducing shipments because of decreased demand.

Despite the positive news in the short term, analysts believe a fade in vaccine sales is inevitable.

“We’re far less enthusiastic about the booster opportunity,” Third Bridge analyst Lee Brown wrote in a Tuesday note. “Most Americans appear to be delaying or skipping the new COVID-19 booster shots, with a recent poll highlighting that two-thirds of American adults do not plan on getting a COVID vaccine soon.”

Pfizer has said that it will increase the price of Comirnaty to between $110 and $130 when the U.S. exhausts its government-managed vaccine supply and moves to a commercial model sometime in 2023.

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said on Tuesday that the company doesn’t have any new insight on when the transition will occur or how it will influence projections.

“Clearly there will be new price dynamics,” Bourla said. “COVID [vaccines] will be established into more like a flu volumes-type of market but of course with different price points.”

Pfizer’s other blockbuster COVID product, Paxlovid, pulled in sales of $7.5 billion in the quarter, meeting the company’s expectations and necessitating no adjustment of its annual sales projection of $22 billion.

More needs to be done to convince doctors that Paxlovid is a good option for patients, said Angela Hwang, chief commercial officer and president of Pfizer’s global biopharmaceutical business.

“The one area of education that we need to emphasize is: Who are the eligible people for Paxlovid,” Hwang said. “There are 22 risk factors for who should be eligible and those include those who are over 65—age-related risks—but equal risks like mental health illness, inactive lifestyle, risks you may not be aware of. I think that’s where we want to focus now.”  

For the quarter overall, Pfizer reported revenue of $22.6 billion. It was a 2% decline from the third quarter of 2021 but that period was marked by booming COVID-19 vaccine sales.

Edward Jones analyst John Boylan noted that Pfizer’s third-quarter earnings per share came to $1.78, significantly higher than the consensus forecast of $1.39.

“This quarter’s outperformance was mostly driven by much better COVID-19 vaccine sales compared with our expectations,” Boylan wrote. “We continue to believe these sales are not sustainable over the long term.”