Picture: Pharming Securities

Variants will drive long-term COVID-19 vaccine

New entrants and variants will be main drivers of the COVID-19 vaccine market as supply gradually begins
to catch up with demand.

In an incredible feat of science, accelerated R&D within the space of a year has yielded 11 Covid-19 vaccines. As some countries now reach coverage of priority groups we are starting to see reductions in cases, hospitalisations and mortality, however, these countries remain the exception as global supply still lags far behind demand. We at Fitch Solutions expect this picture to improve significantly over the course of 2021 as manufacturing ramps up and new products enter the market.

mRNA to dominate: In our view, the two mRNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna look set to dominate sales in developed markets thanks to their so far best-in-class performance in late-stage trials and real-world data. The clearest example of the latter is the use of the Pfizer-BioN­Tech vaccine in Israel which enabled the removal of the majority of its lockdown restrictions in early March, despite this, cases, hospitalisations and deaths have continued to fall. Looking forward we expect the preference for mRNA vaccines to be boosted by the safety concerns faced by AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson.

Variants to drive market longevity: With supply improving, the main challenge to vaccination progress is the emergence of new variants. Whilst it appears that the current wheelhouse of vaccines has reasonable varying levels of efficacy against the current variants, new variants could continue to gradually reduce this efficacy, eventually driving the need for updated vaccines and therefore long-term demand. Indeed, in the first signs of this second market, Israel placed an advance order for new versions of Pfizer’s vaccine through 2022.

Prices to fall: Pfizer conservatively forecasts $15bn in Covid-19 vaccine sales over 2021, however, new market entrants will steadily quell the long-term opportunities available. Phase II/III results are expected in Q2/21 from CureVac and Inovio, and over the full year, we’re expecting at least another five approved vaccines which will serve to build the portfolio available to governments whilst also driving down prices. Over the long-term we expect the Covid-19 vaccine market to resemble the pre-pandemic flu vaccine market with competitive advantages available for broad effectiveness across different variants and longer protection.

This article was originally published in Summer Edition European Biotechnology Magazine 2021.