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  • Maya Shavit

The Business Behind COVID-19

Updated: Feb 27, 2022

COVID-19 continues to be one of the most persistent dangers around the globe. The vaccines administered in 2021 and 2022 are considered vital factors to ending this persistent issue. Recognizing their power, the vaccine industry and the current titans in it have turned an astounding amount of profit from the pandemic through their respective sales of initial and booster shots.

In the United States and globally, the two most common vaccines are Moderna and Pfizer. Together, along with Pfizer’s German partner BioNTech, the companies have acquired over $60 billion in vaccine sales. At this stretch of the pandemic, analysts predict that the market will settle around $5 billion annually.

Photo Courtesy: Dado Ruvic/Reuters

The main providers of the vaccine have made much more revenue in the past two years than they ever did before. Specifically, in the case of Moderna, the Wall Street Journal reported that vaccine sales rose from $8 million in 2020 to $1.94 billion in 2021. Modern has mostly established itself as a giant in the vaccine industry since the beginning of the pandemic. Moderna only had one readily available product as of 2021, but it was heavily invested in by the government administration at that time. By contrast, Pfizer did not have any government funding and strapped itself for the funds to create and roll out the vaccine. Pfizer has numerous products on shelves and has historically had revenue from many other avenues before the pandemic. The sale of the COVID-19 shots became a massive revenue source for the company recently.

Doctors and medical professionals researching the extent of the COVID-19 variants see the virus becoming a necessary evil to face seasonally in a similar manner to the common flu. If boosters continue to be a part of the lives of individuals in the same way flu shots have been for many years, then the markets will likely mirror each other. Four competitors split the U.S. flu shot market with a few different bases for each including an egg-based flu vaccine, a cell-based flu vaccine, and recombinant flu vaccine. The United States flu vaccine market makes up more than half of the global market and manages more than 600 million doses a year for people living in the United States alone.

The mainstream COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers have a lot of leverage when it comes to the price point of shots. The flu vaccines typically cost anywhere from $18-$25 individually and that price does not shift drastically on an annual basis. The booster shots for COVID-19, however, have escalated in price with them starting in the $20 and escalating on an increasing scale with each FDA approval about 25%.

An additional factor that will contribute to the price point of the COVID-19 vaccines is the ongoing race between the global manufacturers to be dominant when it comes to annual rollout. Unlike the flu vaccine, there is an immense amount of press coverage of the companies that spreads around the world with each new piece of information that is released to the public about health standards. As long as people are living with the fear and concern of COVID-19, citizens and their governments by that extent will continue to pony up what it takes to acquire the necessary goods to protect themselves. There is a high demand for a vaccine because of the delicate nature of health in the United States and around the globe.

While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be a daunting force in the lives of many, it is worthwhile to examine who is profiting from the manufacturing and distribution of the products that will hopefully be a key factor in bringing society to a safer and better place with time.


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