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Pfizer And Moderna Reap Rewards Of Expanded US And EU Deals

Pfizer And Moderna Reap Rewards Of Expanded US And EU Deals

Source : 'Scrip Intelligence'

The EU has agreed major expansions of its deals with the COVID-19 vaccine makers Pfizer Inc./BioNTech SE and Moderna, adding a further 350 million vaccine doses to its confirmed orders.

These follows similar moves from the US government, which agreed to buy an extra 100 million doses from both companies last week.

The new deals announced by Brussels on 17 February reflect a determination by the European Commission to not get left behind again on COVID-19 vaccine procurement, after having trailed the US and UK on signing deals in 2020.

For Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, the agreements show the two mRNA-based products extending their market lead, even as regulators in the US and EU look set to grant emergency authorizations for two further COVID-19 vaccines from J&J and Novavax in the next few weeks, which will release millions more doses to patients. ()

The European Commission has sealed a new agreement to purchase a further 150 million doses of MRNA-1273 from Moderna this year, with an option to buy a further 150 million in 2022. That brings the confirmed order commitment to 310 million doses for delivery in 2021.

The expanded Pfizer deal is even bigger: the Commission is adding 200 million extra doses of Comirnaty to its order for 2021, bringing that deal to 500 million doses.

The size of the two new deals shows the European Commission intent on learning lesson from its tardy procurement process in 2020 which led to the slow roll out of the vaccination program for the European Union’s 27 member states; delays to Pfizer/BioNTech and AstraZeneca’s supplies continue there.

The deals add to the EU portfolio, which also includes as-yet-unapproved vaccines from Sanofi/GSK, CureVac and Moderna, and could in total provide 2.6 billion doses, if all the candidates are approved by the European Medicines Agency.

Given the the 446 million EU population, the expanded deals also open up the possibility of the Commission donating spare vaccines to lower and middle-income countries or to re-direct it to other European countries.

While they have been the most fleet-of-foot commercially in early 2021, critics argue that this flexibility in manufacturing capacity has been because of their lack of commitment to supplying low-and-middle income countries – Moderna has still to pledge any doses to these countries. 

Both vaccines have demonstrated efficacy rates above 90% in their pivotal clinical trials, with early data from Israel suggests Pfizer’s vaccine performs to a similar level in the real-world setting.

Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna have also been the fastest to respond to the threat posed by new strains of SARS-CoV-2, most notably the UK and South Africa variants, and look likely to be able to produce ‘tweaked’ versions of their vaccines more rapidly than the likes of J&J and AstraZeneca, which both use the adenovirus vector-based platforms.

The market for COVID-19 vaccines is still expected to tail off sharply once the pandemic phase officially ends, but the emergence of new variants has signalled that vaccination against SARS-CoV-2 could be a permanent fixture in national immunization programs – with Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna well placed in this longer term outlook.

Analysts at Brookline Capital Markets have adjusted their forecast for Moderna, and now expect it to sell an estimated 575 million doses of mRNA-1273 in 2021 – which would help it bring in around $10.3bn this year.

Brookline now forecasts that doses sold will be even higher in 2022, up to 855 million doses. If the company can exceed $10bn in revenues next year as well, this will help its finance its entry into other fields, such as mRNA-based flu vaccines and novel cancer therapies.

The biggest limiting factor in COVID-19 for Moderna is its manufacturing capacity: it currently projects it can produce a minimum of 600 million in 2021, but is aiming to deliver up to 1 billion doses, and then a further 1 billion next year.

Pfizer has already provided guidance that it expects to earn $15bn from its vaccine in 2021 (splitting revenues 50/50 with BioNTech), but this forecast looks increasingly conservative after the EU’s increased orders, and with more likely to come from other nations.

Pfizer's leadership said on its recent Q4 update that it expects to meet its deliver all of its contracted 200 million doses to the US by May, two months ahead of schedule, opening up the possibility of further US government orders.

By Andrew McConaghie