It was COVID-19 against the world for over two years and counting, and the major players in the realm of pharma are set to triumph. As of mid-January of 2023, more than 70% of the total world population have taken at least one dose of an approved & accredited coronavirus vaccine; this amounts to over 5.5 billion vaccine shots delivered since the economy-rattling pandemic outbreak in 2020.
There were many pharma firms in the race to create the ultimate COVID-19 vaccine and a handful of winners emerged, including Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Sinopharm, Sputnik and Novavax.
Among the winners were champions, notably Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca which created trusted vaccines with high efficacy, generating immense success for the pharma giants in recent years with regards to brand exposure and of course, money bags.
COVID celebrated its three-year birthday in December of 2022 after being first identified in China’s Wuhan by birthing fresh waves of new cases across the world’s regions, with the most affected being the United States, Brazil, Japan, multiple European nations and cautious China.
Pharmaceutical behemoths have capitalized on virus resurgence, doubling up on vaccine production and delivery and enjoying considerable profits in their recent brawls with COVID.
Will coronavirus hit the breaks in 2023, and if so, what would that mean for the pharma giants?
Player 1: Prosperous Pfizer
If only a single company is to be crowned as the true victor of COVID, it would be Pfizer. The seasoned multinational pharma leader has been in the game for a long time, being the brains of some of the world’s most well-known drugs like Advil, Lyrica and Viagra as well as consumer products such as Chapstick.
The rise of COVID has produced immense success for Pfizer. The company projected record-breaking success for 2022 and has not failed to meet its high expectations, quarter after quarter. Selling billions of dollars’ worth of its COVID-19 shots and antiviral treatment pill Paxlovid, Pfizer has beat Wall Street estimates in its recent quarter:
· Revenue: $22.6 billion
· Net income: $8.6 billion
Pfizer generated $4.4 billion from its vaccine sales and $7.5 billion from Paxlovid in the quarter, with net income of $8.6 billion marking a 6% increase over the same quarter a year ago. The success can be largely attributed to rising COVID cases, most notably in the United States, and Pfizer has also been acquiring companies to expand its biotech business, recently securing Biohaven for $11.6 billion and Global Blood Therapeutics for $5.4 billion.
The company expects greater things ahead, raising its fiscal year 2022 guidance for revenue from $99.5 billion to $102 billion, and earnings per share of $6.40 to $6.50 for the year.  Other than its COVID-focused operations, Pfizer consistently makes gains from selling other pharmaceutical products, including Eliquis which is a blood thinner to treat clots and its popular pneumonia vaccine, Prevnar.
Player 2: Mighty Moderna
Moderna has been a fierce competitor in the pharmaceutical industry, despite its fresh inception in 2010. The pharma and biotech-focused Moderna has truly been mighty in its tusks with COVID, delivering over 250 million vaccine doses in the United States alone since its vaccine has been approved for use.
The Moderna vaccine has been well-received by the public and healthcare professionals, with high levels of effectiveness and safety reported. While its vaccine is highly accredited and remains so, Moderna’s performance in the 3rd fiscal quarter of 2023 was underwhelming:
· Revenue: $3.36 billion vs. $3.53 billion expected
· Earnings per share: $2.53 vs. $3.29 expected *
According to the company, supply chain constraints have forced Moderna to delay vaccine deliveries worth between $2 billion to $3 billion. With Moderna’s COVID vaccine being the firm’s only commercial product available, the company’s success is highly determined by national conditions of the coronavirus.
If or when COVID becomes an endemic, or in other words, regularly-occurring, Moderna expects global demand to remain resilient. Yet, the mighty Moderna lowered its 2022 sales projection from $21 billion to between $18 billion & $19 billion. Expect a turbulent year ahead!
Player 3: Ambitious AstraZeneca
AstraZeneca can be seen as the underdog in the space of COVID-19 vaccines. Despite its flagship coronavirus vaccine produced in co-operation with Oxford University being approved in 185 countries, it often gets overshadowed by the noticeable feats of Pfizer and Moderna.
The international pharmaceutical giant reported a strong business performance in the first nine months of 2022, with total revenue increasing by 37% on a year-to-year basis to a bit over $33 billion. The growth stemmed from all disease areas as well as the addition of Alexion which specializes in treating rare diseases and disorders.
According to chief executive Pascal Soriot, “AstraZeneca continues to see the benefit of sustained investment in R&D”. He also added that after such a sturdy performance, AstraZeneca increased the core EPS estimation for the full 2022 fiscal year, and that the company aims to “lead by example” in accelerating the delivery of its net zero strategy.
Looking into the stocks of Pfizer (NYSE: PFE), Moderna (NASDAQ: MRNA) and AstraZeneca (LON: AZN), it can be seen that Moderna is the mighty stock, increasing over 900% in value since its debut on the NASDAQ stock exchange. *
A closer look into Pfizer & AstraZeneca stock price movement would reveal that both are quite volatile in the short-term, but are relatively stable in the long-run. This also applies to the Moderna stock, with all three stocks exhibiting positive outlooks for the long-term game. 
If only numbers mattered, PFE gained the most since its initial public offering when compared to MRNA & AZN, but AZN may be more favorable for investors which seek stability and consistent returns, since the stock has been on a predominantly-bullish ride since 2017. *
Will COVID Hit the Breaks in 2023?
When will the coronavirus pandemic end? While the concerns and seriousness of the disease may dwindle over time, that does not mean that the world is set free from the shackles of COVID. New COVID cases arise all over the world and according to Worldometer, that number can surpass 2 million fresh cases every day.
As long as mutators and variants continue to form & spread, the show will go on, and the pharma giants will witness another year of surging global demand for their vaccines, translating into profit bags to take home.
The real question may not be when will COVID end, but rather if it will end at all. If it comes an endemic just like the regular flu, vaccine sales will not halt but effectively accelerate and decelerate based on global conditions.
Adam Austera, analyst of Ozios
* Past performance is no guarantee of future results
[1,2,3,4] Forward-looking statements are based on assumptions and current expectations, which may be inaccurate, or based on the current economic environment which is subject to change. Such statements are not guaranteeing of future performance. They involve risks and other uncertainties which are difficult to predict. Results could differ materially from those expressed or implied in any forward-looking statements.