The global Covid-19 pandemic has changed many aspects of our society. This is especially true in the medical world, where the new vaccines have completely overturned the prevailing hierarchy among the world’s vaccine manufacturers. Today the four largest vaccine manufacturing companies are Covid-19 vaccine manufacturers.
After several months of being almost paralysed by the advance of the Covid-19 pandemic, on November 9, 2020, the news that an entire world had been waiting for finally came. Pfizer and development partner BioNTech announced preliminary results from the then ongoing phase III study with the vaccine candidate BNT162b2. Not long after, several other companies were able to follow up with their own positive efficacy data and only a few months later the newly developed vaccines were on their way to the world’s population. The rest is, as they say, history.
BNT162b2 the clear winner
When the news site FiercePharma recently compiled the list of the world’s ten largest vaccine companies in 2021, there is no doubt that the vaccine industry has been fundamentally reshaped. Having previously held pole positions, companies such as Merck, GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi have seen their positions overtaken by other players. Sitting unchallenged at the top is Pfizer, with vaccine revenues of just under 43 billion USD in 2021. In second place we find Pfizer’s German partner BioNTech, which in 2021 had vaccine revenues of just over 22 billion USD.
BioStock recently published an article about BioNTech’s journey – from anonymous biotech company to a big player on the vaccine market – which you can read here.
Covid-19 vaccines dominate
In third and fourth place we find Sinovac and Moderna, whose revenues, as is well known, are basically exclusively Covid-19-related. Covid-19 is also represented a little further down the list, in places number nine and ten. Ninth place went to AstraZeneca, who was also able to report positive phase III results regarding its Vaxzevria vaccine early in the Covid-19 race.
Along the way, however, the company has struggled with production problems and found it difficult to deliver promised volumes. In addition, there were some question marks about the safety profile of the vaccine after it was discovered that a number of people vaccinated with Vaxzevria suffered from blood clots. AstraZeneca’s vaccine sales in 2021 amounted to just under 4 billion USD.
Problems were also noted at number ten on the list, Johnson & Johnson, which launched its Covid-19 vaccine slightly later than its competitors further up the list. Just like at AstraZeneca, there were problems with production and here, too, blood clots were reported. 2021 vaccine sales for Johnson & Johnson came in at around 2.4 billion USD. However, this represented a relatively small part of the company’s total sales, which amounted to a staggering 94 billion USD, making the company the highest-grossing pharmaceutical company in the world in 2021.
Gardasil also left its mark on the leaderboard
It is not until we look at position number five on the list that we find a company whose vaccine sales are not dominated by a Covid-19 vaccine, namely American Merck. The company retired from the Covid-19 race after competitors began to present their positive phase III results. If it were not for the Covid-19 vaccines, Merck had clinched first place on the vaccine list, largely due to the crown jewel in its vaccine portfolio, the HPV vaccine Gardasil, which in 2021 brought in a whopping 5.7 billion USD to the company.
Gardasil also has an impact a bit further down the list, in eighth place, where we find Chinese Zhifei. The company, which holds the Chinese rights to Gardasil, recorded vaccine sales of 4.8 billion USD in 2021.
Huge vaccine sales despite failed Covid-19 collaboration
In places number six and seven of the world’s largest vaccine companies, we find the giants GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi, who collaborated to develop a vaccine against Covid-19 during the pandemic. However, the collaboration did not bear any fruit, and the companies have had to rely on the already established vaccine portfolios to earn their positions in FiercePharma’s review.
For GlaxoSmithKline, vaccine sales in 2021 came in at 9.3 billion USD, where Shingrix is singled out as the single most important product. The vaccine targets shingles and the company aims to reach Shingrix sales of around 4 billion GBP by 2026, more than double the 1.7 billion GBP reached in 2021.
For Sanofi vaccine sales in 2021 amounted to approximately 7.5 billion USD. Influenza continues to be an important part of Sanofi´s vaccine portfolio, along with polio, pertussis and haemophilus influenzae type b.
The ten largest vaccine companies in 2021
Below is a compilation of the ten companies that recorded the highest vaccine sales in 2021, according to FiercePharma´s review. Sales have been gathered from the companies’ own communications and the currency has been calculated using the average exchange rates for 2021.
|Pfizer||42,63 billion USD|
|BioNTech||22,48 billion USD|
|Sinovac||19,37 billion USD|
|Moderna||17,67 billion USD|
|Merck||9,69 billion USD|
|GlaxoSmithKline||9,32 billion USD|
|Sanofi||7,45 billion USD|
|Zhifei||4,75 billion USD|
|AstraZeneca||3,98 billion USD|
|Johnson & Johnson||2,39 billion USD|