J&J forecasts $2.5B COVID vaccine sales this year, lagging rivals

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Pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson revealed Wednesday that it expects to take home about $2.5 billion from COVID-19 vaccine sales in 2021, far lower than estimates from its jab rivals Moderna and Pfizer.

Pfizer and Moderna have previously forecast $26 billion and $19.2 billion in annual sales of their vaccines, respectively. Those two-shot vaccines were approved by US regulators last year, while J&J’s one-shot vaccine was approved earlier this year.

J&J’s vaccine has been hit by various setbacks, including concerns over rare but severe side effects that appear to be linked to the vaccine as well as questions over the shot’s effectiveness against new variants of the virus.

The estimate, which was announced in the company’s second-quarter earnings release, comes one day after a new study found that the J&J vaccine is much less effective against the Delta than it is against the original version of the virus.

The study, which examined blood samples in a laboratory setting and has not yet been peer-reviewed, suggested that anyone who received the J&J vaccine may need to receive a second shot as the variant continues to spread across the US.

But the study is at odds with preliminary data released earlier this month by J&J indicating its vaccine was effective against the Delta variant, first located in India, at least eight months after inoculation.

The Delta strain of the coronavirus now accounts for an estimated 83 percent of infections in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On top of the questions over the vaccine’s efficacy, it was reported earlier this month that the Food and Drug Administration would soon issue a new warning for the J&J vaccine after the shot was linked to a rare but serious side effect called Guillain-Barré syndrome in a handful of patients.

It’s a condition that occurs when the immune system attacks the body’s nerves and it’s been detected in at least 100 people after more than 12.8 million jabs of the single-dose shot were administered.

And earlier this year, use of the vaccine, was once heralded for its single-shot ease and its ability to inoculate hard-to-reach populations, was paused after it was linked to severe blood clots among younger patients. 

Within days, the pause was lifted and the vaccine was back on the shelves with a new warning label after an extensive safety review by the FDA and CDC found the benefits of using the medicine far outweighed the risks. 

Production efforts have also been hampered by issues, including an April incident that saw the shutdown of a Baltimore manufacturing plant after the vaccine was contaminated with the Astra-Zeneca inoculation, which was being made in the same facility. 

In addition to its estimate of 2021 sales of its COVID-19 vaccine, J&J also gave an updated forecast for its overall operations, raising its earnings and revenue guidance for the year.

The company said it now expects revenue between $92.5 billion and $93.3 billion, including sales from its COVID vaccine, compared with its prior forecast of $89.3 billion to $90.3 billion.

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