Pfizer's vaccine sales leap in 2015 thanks to Prevnar 13

Riding Prevnar 13 uptake, Pfizer's ($PFE) vaccines unit capped off a big growth year on Tuesday, reporting Q4 sales increases of 45% and full-year 2015 growth of 44%.

The New York-based pharma said factors helping it get the results for its leading jab were continued strong uptake in adults, success of commercial programs, increased flu season demand as well as the timing of government purchases. The results follow the unit's Q1 and Q2 growth of 44% and Q3 growth of 43%, numbers all largely driven by Prevnar 13 increases following the CDC's decision in 2014 to recommend the shot in adults over 65.

In the fourth quarter, Prevnar 13 sales increased 102% in the U.S. However, on the company's conference call, CFO Frank D'Amelio explained that sales for the pneumococcal disease blocker franchise--$6.2 billion in 2015--are expected to remain flat in 2016.

Pfizer CFO Frank D'Amelio

On Pfizer's past quarterly earnings calls this year, execs have said that the Prevnar 13 catch-up population will last into this year and possibly 2017, while an additional 4 million people annually will reach age 65. The company also is working "country by country" to broaden the vaccine's reach in G7 nations.

Alongside Prevnar 13's growth, Pfizer has worked to diversify its vaccines offerings through both internal R&D and acquisitions. In 11 months from July 2014 to June 2015, Pfizer purchased Baxter's ($BAX) marketed vaccines portfolio for $635 million, Switzerland's RedVax for an undisclosed sum and two older GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) meningitis B vaccines for $130 million. In addition, it's testing vaccines against S. aureus and C. diff in clinical trials and unveiled a cancer vaccines platform last summer.

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