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Are COVID Vaccine Makers Overly Optimistic About Their Capacity?

By Keith Speights - Dec 16, 2020 at 8:16AM

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Hopefully not. But it's still possible.

Pfizer ( PFE -3.00% ) originally expected to produce close to 100 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine BNT162b2 by the end of the year. However, the big drugmaker later slashed its estimate to 50 million doses. In this Motley Fool Live video recorded on Dec. 9, 2020, Healthcare and Cannabis Bureau Chief Corinne Cardina and writer Keith Speights discuss whether other COVID vaccine makers could also be overly optimistic about their capacity.

Corinne Cardina: As some of the vaccine candidates are crossing the finish line, a lot of the investing landscape is now paying attention less so to the actual R&D of these companies, and more toward the actual vaccination landscape. It's quite a different world from being in the lab.

We are seeing some reality checks set in already. Pfizer cut its planned number of expected doses by the end of the year in half. Keith, what were the obstacles that led it to do this, and is this a sign that companies might be overly optimistic in predicting the number of doses they can provide?

Keith Speights: Pfizer encountered some supply chain issues that caused them to lower their projected production. They originally were saying 100 million doses by the end of the year. They reduced that to 50 million.

I will point out, Corinne, that a story broke about their supply chain issues last week in The Wall Street Journal, but Pfizer has been saying for well over a month that their production would be lower. This wasn't a surprise, as it wasn't anything stunning.

Honestly, it probably shouldn't even be unexpected. Keep in mind this is all new territory. There's never been a messenger RNA vaccine approved. There's never been one produced in mass quantities. This is all new, new to Pfizer and everyone involved.

I think probably the best thing to do is just keep that in mind that this is new territory and that they are having to work out some wrinkles along the way. Could it happen with others? Possibly. I mean, it remains to be seen. But I think this is a major challenge for these drugmakers and governments involved, and so we should expect a few bumps in the road along the way.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis – even one of our own – helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.

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