Pfizer Inc on Wednesday reiterated that a third shot will likely be needed to enhance protection amid a resurgence in COVID-19 infections in many countries. The company also said it could apply for an emergency use authorization for a potential booster dose as early as August.
New early data showed that a third dose generated virus-neutralizing antibodies against the Delta variant more than five times higher in younger people and more than 11 times higher in older people than from two doses, Pfizer said.
However, some experts are skeptical and suggest that we might not actually need it.
“I don’t think there’s good clinical evidence,” Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious disease specialist told Global News in an earlier interview.
Chagla said people “shouldn’t necessarily worry that these two shots are going to be useless in a few years.”
“These are the shots that are going to keep people out of hospital and health care from dying,” he said.
John Moore, a virologist at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York, reiterated the same.
“The general feeling that it is not the right time for a third dose of the mRNA vaccines,” he said.
“We’re not saying it should never happen, but now is not the time.”
While Pfizer’s vaccine efforts have been hugely helpful in curbing the spread of COVID-19, they’ve also proven to be extremely lucrative for the company.
The company also raised its full-year sales forecast for the COVID-19 vaccine it developed with Germany’s BioNTech by 29 per cent to $33.5 billion, as nations stock up on doses for the rest of the year.
Pfizer shares were up two per cent at $42.98 in morning trading.
The drugmaker, whose shot was authorized in the United States, Europe and other regions around the world in December of 2020, has won new orders as rivals such as AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson have faced manufacturing and safety hurdles.
Pfizer also competes with U.S. mRNA vaccine maker Moderna Inc, which has not been able to scale up production as quickly as its much larger rival.
“Worldwide demand for vaccines against the virus is expected to continue and the generally positive attitude towards Pfizer’s vaccine … puts the company in a strong position to benefit going forward,” said uk.Investing.com analyst Samuel Indyk.
The updated sales forecast is based on signed deals for 2.1 billion doses. The forecast could be raised again if Pfizer signs additional contracts.
J&J last week estimated full-year COVID-19 vaccine sales of $2.5 billion, while Moderna has forecast $19.2 billion.
Pfizer said it has shipped one billion doses of the vaccine since December. The companies have a production target of around three billion doses this year.
The production ramp-up is subject to expansion at current facilities, adding new suppliers and contract manufacturers, the company said. Pfizer records most of the combined sales from the vaccine, and splits expenses and profit 50-50 with its German partner.
Pfizer and BioNTech plan next month to test a version of the vaccine specifically designed to take on the fast-spreading Delta variant, with the first batch already manufactured, Pfizer said. The more easily transmissible variant now accounts for more than 80 per cent of new U.S. COVID-19 cases and has also become dominant in many other countries.
Pfizer raised its estimates for overall full-year profit, with strong sales of blood thinner Eliquis, which it shares with Bristol Myers Squibb, and cancer drug Ibrance.
The vaccine is helping drive a large part of the company’s forecast, but Pfizer’s base business is also growing, said Mizuho analyst Vamil Divan.
Pfizer now expects full-year adjusted profit of $3.95 to $4.05 per share, up from its prior forecast of $3.55 to $3.65.
— With files from Global News’ Rachel Gilmore