Moderna can meet 2023 COVID vaccine forecast, unlike Pfizer: analysts

Click to play video: 'Health Canada approves updated COVID-19 vaccine'
Health Canada approves updated COVID-19 vaccine
WATCH - Health Canada approves updated COVID-19 vaccine – Sep 13, 2023

Moderna should hit the lower end of its sales target for this year as it only needs to tap a small portion of the private market with its COVID vaccine to reach that goal, according to industry analysts.

Around 20 million people need to be vaccinated with Moderna’s updated COVID-19 vaccine for the company to reach US$2 billion in 2023 sales from the private market, a figure four analysts told Reuters was achievable.

The company has said it expects total U.S. COVID vaccine demand to be as much as 100 million doses in the fall season.

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Health Canada approves Moderna’s Spikevax for use this fall'
COVID-19: Health Canada approves Moderna’s Spikevax for use this fall

Moderna forecast US$6 billion to US$8 billion for sales of its COVID-19 vaccine in 2023, US$2 billion to US$4 billion of which is expected to come from the commercial market. Previously signed government contracts would account for the rest.

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That forecast was called into question last month, when Pfizer lowered its full-year outlook for sales of its COVID-19 shot by about US$2 billion due to lower-than-expected vaccination rates.

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Moderna’s shares have fallen by some 22 per cent since its larger rival’s warning.

“It is unlikely Moderna will have a negative fall (in its sales outlook) like Pfizer because they started off much more conservative,” said Oppenheimer & Co analyst Hartaj Singh.

Jefferies analyst Michael Yee said that while the rollout of the new shots was initially slow, it seems to be picking up, citing recent data. Yee expects most of the demand to come from people aged 65 and over.

Moderna reports third-quarter results on Thursday, two days after Pfizer posted its first quarterly loss since 2019 due to a large charge to account for the U.S. government returning millions of doses of its COVID-19 antiviral treatment Paxlovid, as well as inventory of its COVID vaccine Comirnaty.

Click to play video: 'New Moderna vaccine manufacturing plant expected to be up and running by 2024: Champagne'
New Moderna vaccine manufacturing plant expected to be up and running by 2024: Champagne

The COVID vaccine is Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Moderna’s lone marketed product.

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Its research and development (R&D) costs ballooned 62 per cent to US$1.1 billion in the second quarter as its seeks to bring other products to market, including a flu vaccine and a shot against respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

The company’s RSV vaccine, which it aims to launch in the United States in 2024, was found to be 82.4 per cent effective in older adults with three or more symptoms in a late-stage trial. It would compete with recently approved vaccines from Pfizer and GSK.

Data from a late-stage study of Moderna’s flu vaccine with an updated formulation released in September showed it generated a stronger immune response against all four A and B strains of the influenza virus compared to traditional flu shots.

Moderna’s broader mRNA based respiratory pipeline, which includes RSV and flu vaccines, is expected to reach US$10 billion to US$12 billion in sales, which will reduce expenses and bring R&D stability by 2025, Yee said.

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