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The World Health Organization recently announced covid is no longer a global emergency. Hooray! That is unless you're Novavax, the biotech outfit once billed as an antidote to vaccine hesitancy but like other government-approved vendors is now awash in cancellations as demand for jabs collapses.

Novavax CEO John Jacobs told the Financial Times governments might not deliver on their existing commitments for vaccine purchases, meaning the now-struggling pharma business could face even further hardships.

Just Gimme a Shot

When thousands of people were dying every day from covid, world governments leaned heavily on biotech companies to develop and deliver vaccines. This was a huge boon for biotech. Pre-pandemic, Novavax stock was trading at just a few bucks a piece and its market cap sat at less than $1 billion. By February 2021, the company was worth more than $20 billion.

But now that nearly 75% of the globe is vaccinated and nations are sitting on stockpiles of unused, expiring doses, the immediate need for jabs has shrunk. Administrations and non-profits are reevaluating their contracts, trying to get repayments for vaccines they no longer require:

  • In 2020, the US awarded Novavax $1.6 billion for vaccine development and manufacturing. But the only traditional (non-mRNA) jab was incredibly late to market, only getting FDA approval in July 2022. By this February, just 77,500 doses of the vaccine had been administered out of the 1 million doses Novavax delivered so far, The Hill reported. In its latest earning report, Novavax's total revenue for the first quarter was $81 million compared to $704 million in the same period in 2022
  • Drug companies have so far declined to refund $1.4 billion in advance payments for now-canceled doses, The New York Times reported in February. Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, originally ordered $700 million worth of Novavax doses starting in summer 2021. But after the pharmaceutical company failed to deliver, Gavi canceled its order. Novavax argued it was a breach of contract and kept the money. The two organizations are currently battling it out in court.

"We had to invest billions . . . to deliver a vaccine," Jacobs told the FT. "And then to all of a sudden say: 'Well you spent all your money, you committed to protect our citizens. Now we don't think we need it as much. Sorry, you're out of luck.' That's probably not good for long-term relationships."

There's still hope: Despite the company's "substantial doubt" regarding its ability to stay afloat, there could still be a bright future for the Maryland-based medical biz. Novavax is continuing to develop its covid vaccine for seasonal outbreaks, and it's working on a two-in-one covid/flu shot.'s Dr. John Grabenstein told The Washington Post Novavax has the chance to capture "a small but meaningful share" of the market.