Total global spending on COVID-19 vaccines is projected to reach $157 billion by 2025, driven by mass vaccination programs underway and "booster shots" expected every two years, according to a report by US health data company IQVIA Holdings Inc released on Thursday.
IQVIA, which provides data and analytics for the healthcare industry, said it expects the first wave of COVID-19 vaccinations to reach about 70 percent of the world's population by the end of 2022. Booster shots are likely to follow initial vaccinations every two years, the report said, based on current data on the duration of effect of the vaccines.
The United States is preparing for the possibility that a booster shot will be needed between nine to 12 months after people receive their first full inoculations against COVID-19, a White House official said earlier this month. Pfizer Inc has also said boosters may be needed within 12 months.
Vaccine spending is expected to be highest this year at $54 billion with massive vaccination campaigns underway around the world. It is expected to decrease after that eventually to $11 billion in 2025, as increased competition and vaccine volumes drive down prices, said Murray Aitken, a senior vice president at IQVIA.
Frequently Asked Questions
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.
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.
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.
The forecast for such meteoric growth in sales for a new class of drugs or vaccines is unmatched, but reminiscent of the $130 billion spent on the new hepatitis C cures between 2014 to 2020 due to pent up demand, Aitken said in an interview.
The spending forecast for COVID-19 vaccines represents 2 percent of the roughly $7 trillion forecast for all prescription medicines during that time period, IQVIA said.
Excluding the cost of COVID-19 vaccines, overall medicine spending is forecast to be $68 billion lower over the six years from 2020 to 2025 than it would have been without the pandemic, according to the report.
The pandemic caused major disruptions to doctor visits, procedures and medicine use, leading to some stockpiling in the early days for some medications and then a return to a more normal trend, the report said.
"While COVID-19 vaccines will cost $157 billion over the next five years," Aitken said, "that is a very small price to pay relative to the human cost of the pandemic."Follow our full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic here.