From pandemic fatigue to vaccine fatigue — Americans are proving slow to follow the CDC’s advice to get a COVID-19 booster shot this fall.
On Sept. 12, the CDC recommended that everyone six months and older should get an updated COVID-19 vaccine to protect against the potentially serious outcomes of the illness as we roll into the winter months.
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But by the end of September, only 7.6 million people, or less than 3% of eligible Americans, had rolled up their sleeves and received the updated shots, according to Reuters.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, emergency department visits due to COVID had increased by 7.1% across the US, and hospital admissions increased by 8.6% as of November 11.
Most Americans can still get a COVID-19 vaccine for free either through their health insurance plan or via local health centers and certain pharmacies. Despite that, uptake of the current fall/winter booster has so far been extremely low, according to the CDC release. This is in part due in part to some finding it difficult to book vaccination appointments or find booster shots at no cost.
Low uptake of the booster shots is concerning for not only the country’s health care leaders, but also for the companies that make the COVID-19 vaccines and the investors who added them to their stock portfolios
Here’s a look at how the big three vaccine makers are coping with the lower-than-expected demand this fall.
Pfizer recently slashed its full-year revenue outlook for 2023 to $58 billion to $61 billion — down from its previous estimate of $67 billion to $70 billion — “solely due to COVID products.”
It reaffirmed that outlook in its third-quarter financial statement, where it reported revenues of $13.2 billion for the three months ended Sept. 30 — a 42% decline from the $22,6 billion reported in Q3 2022.
Amidst poor vaccination uptake this fall, the pharmaceutical giant now expects sales of its COVID-19 vaccine, Comirnaty, to be $2 billion lower than previously expected in 2023. It has also slashed its expected Paxlovid (anti-virus medication used as treatment for COVID) revenues by approximately $7 billion.
“We are in the middle of the Covid fatigue,” said Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla during an investor call on Oct. 16. “Nobody wants to speak about Covid. We have the big anti-vaccination rhetoric.”
Facing such uncertainty, Pfizer cut its full-year adjusted earnings guidance to a range of $1.45 to $1.65 per share — a far cry from the prior estimate of $3.25 to $3.45 per share — causing its stock to tumble.
But Pfizer stock recovered quickly after Bourla explained the company’s cost realignment program, which will include layoffs and is expected to deliver savings of $1 billion this year and an additional $2.5 billion in 2024.
Like two peas in a pod, when Pfizer slashed its full-year outlook, investors immediately started to worry about Moderna’s 2023 prospects and its stock value slumped. And unlike its main competitor, Moderna shares did not see a quick recovery.
In November, Moderna reported total revenue for the third quarter of $1.8 billion, compared to $3.4 billion in the same period in 2022 — “mainly due to a decrease in sales of the company’s COVID-19 vaccine.”
The company — which expects its 2023 revenus to be at least $6 billion — reported $1.8 billion in COVID-19 vaccine sales in the third quarter and $3.9 billion through Q3.
"In the third quarter, we significantly resized our manufacturing infrastructure to make our COVID-19 franchise profitable for 2024 and beyond,” said Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel, when announcing the latest results.
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Moderna has so far retained that guidance despite Pfizer’s revision in October, according to Investor’s Business Daily (IBD), stating that its projection “reflects the uncertainty of U.S. vaccination rates.”
In the third quarter, Moderna reported a loss per share of $9.53, compared to a year-earlier gain of $2.53 per share.
Novavax is another vaccine maker that felt the sting of Pfizer’s $9 billion projected revenue slash. Novavax shares dropped by 4.5% shortly after Pfizer’s announcement, adding fuel to the uncertainty around the vaccine company’s financial future after it cut its 2023 outlook in August.
Novavax reported total revenue of $187 million in Q3 of 2023, down from $735 million in the same period last year. The company now expects to make $900 million to $1.1 billion in total revenue in 2023, including $475 million to $625 million from its COVID shot.
Notably, the company did reduce liabilities by $128 million during the third quarter and cut operating expenses by 47% compared to Q3 2022. NVAX stock also had a boost in late November thanks to the World Health Organization signing off on its updated COVID shot.
The Novavax vaccine is unique in that it is the only non-mRNA protein-based XBB COVID vaccine available in the U.S. and therefore appeals to a section of the population that is uneasy over mRNA technology.
On Oct. 16, the company released a statement expressing its confidence in the ongoing rollout and “broad availability of its vaccine in the U.S. market.”
“Following arrival in pharmacies and health care provider offices, and first doses administered last week, Novavax’s vaccine is now widely available throughout the U.S. Novavax believes it is too soon to evaluate U.S. vaccination rates given that vaccinations will continue in the coming weeks.”
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This article provides information only and should not be construed as advice. It is provided without warranty of any kind.