Pfizer expects Covid vaccine demand for years

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Demand for Pfizer's Covid vaccine could bolster its revenues for years, the US drugs giant has said.

Pfizer said it was expecting "durable demand" for the vaccine, in a similar way to flu vaccines.

In the first three months of 2021, the vaccine generated revenues of $3.5bn (£2.5bn) as governments scrambled to try to contain the pandemic.

Revenue from the treatment is expected to hit $26bn this year - accounting for more than one third of Pfizer's sales.

The forecast is based on already-signed contracts for 1.6 billion vaccine doses to be delivered this year.

Pfizer said it expected to sign more deals this year, and was in supply talks with several countries for 2022 and beyond.

"Based on what we've seen, we believe that a durable demand for our Covid-19 vaccine - similar to that of the flu vaccines - is a likely outcome," said chief executive Albert Bourla.

The two-shot vaccine was Pfizer's top-selling product in the first quarter.

Expenses and profit from the vaccine are split 50-50 between Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech.

Pfizer and fellow US firm Moderna profit from their vaccines, while AstraZeneca and US giant Johnson & Johnson are supplying theirs at cost price while the pandemic continues.

Pfizer recently signed a contract with the UK to supply 60 million additional doses in 2021.

It is testing the use of a third dose of its vaccine as a booster, and expects the US to give the go-ahead for it to be used in children between 12 and 15 years old during the pandemic.

It is also testing the safety and efficacy of the vaccine in children from six months to 11 years old, it said in a prepared statement.

Analysis:

Michelle Fleury, North America business correspondent

Unlike rivals Astra Zeneca and Johnson & Johnson which vowed to forego profits on the vaccine during the pandemic, Pfizer planned to make money on its vaccines.

Tuesday's results show just how much.

Its vaccine business grew from $1.61bn in the first three months of 2020 to $4.89bn for the same period this year. That's more than 300% growth.

And it's likely to reap in millions more in profits from the Covid vaccine.

The Pfizer vaccine will need a booster shot within a year of getting the first two doses. It plans to seek emergency use authorisation from US regulators in July.

And more shots equals more money.

The booster shot offers the first clue to how much drug companies may be able to make from their Covid vaccines in the long term.