However, there are good reasons to look for the actual sales total for Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine to be a lot higher than $15 billion. Last week, results from two studies were announced that bode well for Comirnaty. Pfizer could be an even bigger winner than anticipated after these two fantastic findings.
On Feb. 8, two separate studies were posted by Israeli researchers on online scientific site medRxiv.org. These studies pointed to the same finding: Pfizer's vaccine seems to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 and not just prevent infection in vaccinated individuals.
One of those studies sampled viral loads from more than 15,000 people. In samples testing positive for COVID-19, viral loads were much lower in the group of older patients who were much more likely to have been vaccinated with Comirnaty. Previous studies have found that individuals with lower viral loads are less likely to transmit the coronavirus to others.
In the other study, researchers compared individuals who were infected within 12 days after receiving their first shot of Pfizer's vaccine versus those who were infected more than 12 days after receiving their first Comirnaty shot. The first group had very little, if any, protection against coronavirus infection. However, Comirnaty provides some protection 12 days after the first dose. These researchers found that individuals who were infected within 12 days after their first dose had four times greater viral load than the individuals who were infected more than 12 days after their first shot.
There's more. Another research team at the University of Oxford found that individuals who have received two doses of Comirnaty have strong T-cell responses against the U.K. and South African coronavirus variants. This is a promising indication that Pfizer's vaccine is effective at protecting against these new variants.
This finding, published online on Feb. 9, seems to corroborate earlier studies that measured neutralizing antibody levels in individuals vaccinated with Comirnaty. However, those previous studies were conducted in test tubes. The recent University of Oxford study used data from vaccinated individuals.
Adding to Pfizer's fortunes?
Two Israeli studies appear to indicate that Comirnaty can help curb the spread of COVID-19. A University of Oxford study seems to support the efficacy of the vaccine in protecting against two worrisome new variants. Could these findings translate to more money for Pfizer? The studies published online haven't been peer-reviewed yet. But if their findings are confirmed, it's possible (and perhaps even likely) that Pfizer could benefit financially.
That $15 billion sales total that Pfizer estimated it would make with Comirnaty in 2021 was based on supply deals the company had at the time of its fourth-quarter update. Since then, the U.S. government has increased its order of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine by 100 million doses.
The prospects of Pfizer and BioNTech obtaining additional supply deals throughout the world depend in large part on the perceptions of governments about Comirnaty as compared to their perceptions of other COVID-19 vaccines. Findings like those from last week reinforce the view of Comirnaty as highly effective. And the more governments have that view, the more likely it is that Pfizer and BioNTech will land additional supply deals.
It's possible, of course, that there will be similar findings for other COVID-19 vaccines. But Pfizer's first-mover advantage appears to be paying off with more researchers focused on studies featuring Comirnaty instead of rival vaccines.
The big question
There's still one big unanswered question that's even more important to Pfizer's fortunes: How long is the duration of protection against coronavirus infection provided by Comirnaty? The answer to this question is critical. If annual booster shots are required, Pfizer can probably count on billions of dollars in sales each year for its COVID-19 vaccine for a long time to come.
The big pharmaceutical stock is a relative bargain right now, with shares trading below 11 times expected earnings. But if Pfizer is on course for huge recurring revenue from Comirnaty throughout this decade, its share price could be in store for a nice jump.