- Sales of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine totaled $5.9 billion in the first three months of 2022, more than triple what the Massachusetts biotech reported during the same period last year, when its shot was first being rolled out in the U.S.
- The new figures, which Moderna disclosed Wednesday, were more than $1 billion higher than what analysts on Wall Street had predicted for the quarter. The company reiterated its forecast for $21 billion in product sales this year, fueled by demand for booster doses and by expected use in younger populations.
- Moderna's earnings results come one day after Pfizer reported financial figures for the first quarter, which showed the pharmaceutical company's rival COVID-19 vaccine had earned $13.2 billion between January and March, mostly outside the U.S.
Both Moderna and Pfizer maintained their financial forecasts for COVID-19 vaccine sales this year, estimating product revenue that between them totals more than $50 billion.
Yet the trajectory of those sales has become harder for analysts to predict amid questions about how additional booster doses might be rolled out and whether purchasing in the U.S. might shift from the federal government to private payers.
Executives at each company expect at least some people will need annual or seasonal shots to maintain adequate protection against COVID-19, and both Moderna and Pfizer are readying new vaccine versions modified to better match up against variants like omicron.
"Because we think this will be a seasonal vaccine, [vaccination] will be very similar to what people are used to from a flu perspective," said Stephen Hoge, Moderna's president, on a Wednesday conference call.
Moderna has bet that seasonal booster will be a "bivalent" shot, meaning a vaccine containing two virus strains. Data for its first bivalent candidate showed vaccination led to higher antibody levels than the company's current vaccine, although Moderna is advancing another candidate for which it expects data by June.
The Food and Drug Administration has been discussing with independent advisers how best to adjust the composition of COVID-19 boosters, and plans to hold another meeting on the issue in June.
While that process still remains somewhat unsettled, Moderna is anticipating higher vaccine sales in the second half of the year based on expectations that more people will need a booster dose. As first quarter revenue already eclipsed one fourth of Moderna's full-year forecast, a company executive acknowledged on Wednesday's call that second quarter sales will likely be lower than what the biotech generated between January and March.
Pfizer, meanwhile, appears to be predicting slower sales in the second half of the year, after reporting $13 billion in first quarter vaccine revenue and maintaining its forecast of $32 billion in annual sales — a combination that "caught some investors by surprise," according to Mizuho Securities analyst Vamil Divan.
Mani Foroohar, an analyst at SVB Securities, wrote in a note to clients that Pfizer's results were "a clear signal of slowing in the vaccine end market."
In 2021, Pfizer repeatedly raised its vaccine sales guidance as the year went on and more government supply contracts were signed. Federal funding in the U.S., however, might not be as readily available as it was in 2021, potentially meaning a shift toward commercial insurance coverage.
"There is a chance that the U.S. will go to private market in the next year," said Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla on a conference call Tuesday. Bourla expects international markets will likely continue with government purchases, though, and Pfizer has contracts in place that extend to 2023 and 2024.
Moderna, for its part, has "a number of negotiations" ongoing with countries regarding supply for fall boosters that are not counted in its current guidance, Chief Financial Officer David Meline said Wednesday.