Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine could cruise to $5B in sales—or more, analysts say

Moderna has never scored a commercial approval for any of its drugs or vaccines, but analysts with Jefferies think the company has a winner in its COVID-19 shot. And not just any winner—a multibillion-dollar blockbuster.

The company, a frontrunner in the global vaccine race, will likely win an emergency approval or full approval early next year and earn billions of dollars in sales, Jefferies analysts wrote in a Monday note initiating coverage on the company.

Based on discussions with opinion leaders and public disclosures by the company, the analysts see a “good probability Moderna's vaccine will work and get at least emergency use authorization in 2021,” Jefferies’ Michael Yee wrote in the note to clients. A safe and effective vaccine “can generate billions in sales, which we see as reasonable given there would be high demand over the first 1-2 years.” 

The analysts predict 50 million people will be vaccinated in 2021 at $50 per dose. Under that scenario, Moderna could earn about $2 billion in 2021 and $5 billion over the next few years.

But if 100 million or 200 million people get vaccines at a higher price point, “this can quickly get to big numbers of $10-20B+ in theory,” Yee wrote. Aside from revenues in COVID-19, success would unlock “platform value” as the company is advancing other drugs and vaccines against various diseases. 

Of course, there is a chance the vaccine doesn’t work, Yee acknowledged. In that case, the stock would be “hit hard,” along with others, as the pandemic drags on. 

RELATED: Pfizer, BioNTech nab fast track tag, prep for major phase 3 COVID-19 vax test this month 

Moderna, which is advancing an mRNA vaccine candidate, entered human testing for its vaccine in record time this spring and is kicking off a phase 3 trial this month. 

But some of the world's largest pharma companies are also pursuing COVID-19 vaccines. On Monday, partners Pfizer and BioNTech won FDA Fast Track Designations for two of their candidates. Last week, the CEOs for those companies said in separate interviews they expect to be ready to submit them to the FDA in the fall and winter, respectively. Experts have said it'll likely take multiple vaccines to defeat COVID-19. 

AstraZeneca, Sanofi and Johnson & Johnson are among the other pharma giants involved in the work.