Pfizer has noted that its most recent COVID-19 shot, which it is testing against emerging variants, demonstrated neutralizing activity against the “Eris”in a mouse study. The company said it is keeping a close watch on the variant and is ready to produce “variant-modified vaccine templates” if needed. Pfizer intends to launch its updated vaccine commercially by the end of August, pending regulatory approval.
Moderna has also announced positive preliminary testing of its latest vaccine shot against the Eris SARS-CoV-2 subvariant. The company indicates that preliminary clinical trial data demonstrates that its latest COVID-19 vaccine generated a robust immune response against the EG.5. The vaccine also performed well against the Fornax variant, technically known as FL.1.5.1.
This year, the vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna will be monovalent rather than bivalent, as was the case in 2022.
Fornax is currently the most common variant in the U.S., accounting for about 13% of cases, according to CDC.
Moderna has submitted its updated vaccine to global regulatory bodies, including the FDA and EMA.
While Pfizer and Moderna have cemented themselves in the COVID-19 vaccine market, Novavax is a latecomer seeking to gain footing with its differentiated protein-based vaccine technology. Novavax, which makes the only non-mRNA COVID-19 vaccine, has also updated its protein-based vaccine. It is preparing to launch a phase 2/3 trial of its updated XBB.1.5 omicron booster vaccine in adults who have previously received mRNA vaccines. If Novavax can show that the booster is a superior heterologous booster option to mRNA boosters, it could help the struggling company gain market share. Its stock price has fallen more than 80% over the past year to $7.17 per share.
Originally, Moderna, Pfizer and Novavax updated their vaccine to target the XBB.1.5 variant, nicknamed the ‘Kraken,’ which evolved from the BA.2 omicron subvariant.
Projected vaccine demand and financial impacts
The vaccine companies project that vaccine demand this season will be substantially lower than in prior years. Moderna predicts that the U.S. will administer 100 million doses of its latest this fall, which is a bit less than the average number of flu vaccine doses.
In the second quarter of the year, Moderna reported a sales decline of 93%. It generated $344 million compared to $4.75 billion in the same quarter in 2022.
To combat waning demand, both Pfizer and Moderna have indicated that they will bump the price of individual vaccine doses to around $130. That’s nearly five times more than the price in the 2022 season.
Pfizer’s vaccine partner BioNTech is also feeling the pressure too. The company’s finance chief recently noted that the company is “carefully watching” its spending.
Novavax, a smaller player in the vaccine market, might dissolve if its latest vaccine launch doesn’t go as hoped. The company has already signaled plans to lay off 25% of its workers.
Filed Under: Infectious Disease