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Pfizer plans expanded coronavirus vaccine trials, sees 'negligible' hit from outbreak

The company left its full-year adjusted profit forecast of $2.82 to $2.92 per share unchanged, saying it expects the pandemic to have little impact on its overall results.

April 29, 2020 / 08:16 AM IST

Pfizer Inc said it expects its experimental coronavirus vaccine to move into expanded clinical trials by October that could allow for emergency use or accelerated approval, as it ramps up efforts to combat the pandemic.

The company left its full-year adjusted profit forecast of $2.82 to $2.92 per share unchanged, saying it expects the pandemic to have little impact on its overall results.

Pfizer said most of its drugs are not administered at the physician’s office, which would help it emerge from the pandemic with a “negligible” impact on its results. Millions of Americans have been avoiding visiting doctors or hospitals out of fear of becoming infected with the virus.

However, Chief Executive Albert Bourla on a conference call cautioned, “We are likely to see more negative impact during the second quarter, driven primarily by reductions in new patient starts.”

Pfizer, in partnership with Germany’s BioNTech, is among many drugmakers racing to develop a vaccine for the highly contagious virus that has infected more than 3 million people worldwide.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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The company said it expects to make safety data available by late May and move into expanded trials that could allow emergency use or accelerated approval starting in the fall, although experts have cautioned that a safe, effective vaccine may still be more than a year away.

The company’s unchanged forecast “makes clear management confidence that they have enough gears to make its earnings guidance despite COVID-19,” Citi analyst Andrew Baum said.

In contrast, Merck & Co on Tuesday estimated a $2.1 billion hit to 2020 revenue due to the pandemic, as two-thirds of its products must be administered by doctors.

Pfizer reported a nearly $150 million boost to first-quarter revenue, helped by increased demand for some of its medicines, including pneumonia vaccine Prevnar, which some physicians are prescribing to help combat the effects of COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus.

There are currently no treatments of vaccines approved for COVID-19, but doctors have been trying many approaches to try to alter the course of the sometimes deadly disease.

Pfizer also said its commitment to spin off its off-patent branded drugs business and combine it with generic drugmaker Mylan NV  was unchanged.

Excluding items, Pfizer earned 80 cents per share in the quarter, beating analysts by 7 cents, according to Refinitiv data.

Revenue fell 8.3% to $12.03 billion, but topped Wall Street estimates of about $11.87 billion.

Pfizer shares were down 0.4% at $38.16.
Reuters
first published: Apr 29, 2020 08:16 am

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