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COVID-19 VACCINES

Pharma giants including Germany’s BioNTech set to make billions from Covid-19 booster jab

Medical companies Pfizer, Moderna and Germany's BioNTech are expected to see soaring profits to the tune of billions of dollars from Covid-19 booster shots, analysts and investors have announced.

Pharma giants including Germany's BioNTech set to make billions from Covid-19 booster jab
Photo by Ina FASSBENDER / AFP

Following Germany’s news that it will start offering Covid booster shots from September, the pharmaceutical companies responsible for delivering them are set to generate an income high enough to rival the US flu vaccine market, reported Reuters.

The medical firms had previously warned that a third booster shot might be needed to keep up levels of protection and combat new variants of the virus, such as the highly transmissible Delta variant currently spreading throughout Europe.

READ ALSO: Germany to secure 204 million Covid vaccine ‘booster’ doses for 2022

The additional shots will be carried out with one of the two mRNA vaccines – Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna – and administered by local GPs and mobile vaccination teams.

Pfizer, along with its German partner BioNTech, and Moderna have made over $60 billion in sales of the shots in 2021 and 2022.

Agreements to supply the initial two doses of their vaccines are set to be bolstered by the third jab.

Photo: Hauke-Christian Dittrich / POOL / AFP

Analysts have made revenue forecasts of over $6.6 billion for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and $7.6 billion for Moderna in 2023 – which is reportedly to mostly come from booster sales.

Longer-term predictions peg the annual market at around $5 billion or higher, as more medical companies compete.

Germany joins other governments in offering an extra jab to the elderly or those vulnerable to disease, who have been shown to be much more at risk of death or hospitalisation from Covid, and people with chronic conditions that might affect their immune systems.

READ ALSO: Who’s about to get a top-up Covid shot in Germany – and why? 

A booster shot will also be offered to anyone who received the two-dose AstraZeneca or single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccines “in the interests of preventative healthcare”, according to a document released by Germany’s health minister Jens Spahn.

Both AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson are viral vector vaccines, which teaches the body how to make copies of the spike proteins found in Covid-19. If you are exposed to the real virus later, your body will recognise it and know how to fight it off.

Meanwhile, the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines use novel mRNA technology, whereby “small, harmless fragments of the COVID-19 virus” are presented to immune cells, so they “learn how to recognise and attack the virus”, according to BioNTech’s description of the vaccine.

mRNA vaccines have shown high efficacy in studies.

READ ALSO: Covid vaccine mix-and-match: Why is it so common in Germany – and is it safe?

Anyone vaccinated with either of these shots in Germany will likely have the chance to a get a top-up jab at their local GP’s office from September onwards.

German authorities have stressed, however, that the additional jab is entirely optional, and that it should be taken at least six months after the last vaccine dose was administered. 

As many people in Germany – especially younger people – have only recently been vaccinated, it will be some time still before they get their top-up.

Despite Germany’s currently relatively low infection rates compared with neighbouring countries, case numbers have been rising slightly in recent weeks mainly because of the more contagious Delta variant.

There are also concerns about a slowdown in the country’s vaccination rate, with just over 56 percent of the population fully immunised, according to latest government figures.

Member comments

  1. Why are we funneling billions of euros to Big Pharma for vaccines that only reduce symptoms and don’t prevent infection or transmission? They’re taking advantage of the fear and panic of the pandemic to force us to take a product that doesn’t even work as well as traditional vaccines. Governments should be ashamed of themselves mandating these pseudo-vaccines.

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COVID-19 VACCINES

Are people who’ve had the single J&J jab no longer fully vaccinated in Germany?

Germany's federal vaccine agency says that people who've had one dose of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine should no longer be classed as being fully vaccinated.

People queue for a vaccination in Quedlinburg, Saxony-Anhalt.
People queue for a vaccination in Quedlinburg, Saxony-Anhalt. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Matthias Bein

People who’ve had J&J, sometimes known as Janssen, used to have full vaccination status after a single dose of the vaccine. 

Since January 15th, however, a single dose of J&J should no longer count as full vaccination, according to the Paul Ehrlich Institute (PEI), the country’s vaccine authority. 

In autumn last year the German government began recommending a second mRNA jab for people who’d had J&J – which many people thought was the booster vaccination. 

However, according to the PEI’s update on proof of vaccination within the Covid Protective Measures Exemption Ordinance and the Coronavirus Entry Ordinance, the second shot is needed to complete ‘basic immunisation’.

It is unclear at this stage if it means that people returning or coming to Germany from abroad with only one shot of J&J will be counted as partially vaccinated and therefore need to present tests or face other forms of barriers to entry. 

We are also looking into what this means for the various health pass rules in states, such as the 3G rules for transport. 

The Deutsches Ärzteblatt, a German-language medical magazine, said: “Special rules according to which one dose was recognised as a complete vaccination with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are no longer applicable.”

The Local has contacted the German Health Ministry for clarification on what this means for those affected. 

According to the latest government figures, 5.3 million doses of Johnson & Johnson have been given out in Germany so far in the vaccination campaign. 

The news will come as a shock to those who don’t know that they need another jab, or haven’t got round to getting their second vaccine yet. 

All other jabs – such as BioNTech/Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca – already require two jabs. 

People in Germany are seen as fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose. 

What about boosters?

As The Local Germany has been reporting, the German government said in December that people who’ve had J&J need a third shot three months after their second dose to be considered boosted.

A German Health Ministry spokesman told us last week that due to more vaccination breakthrough infections affecting people who’ve had the J&J vaccine, extra protection was needed.

“Therefore, after completion of the basic immunisation as recommended by STIKO, i.e. after administration of two vaccine doses (preferably 1x J&J + 1x mRNA), following the current recommendation of the STIKO, a further booster vaccination can subsequently be administered with a minimum interval of a further three months, as with the other approved Covid-19 vaccines,” the Health Ministry spokesman said. 

However, there has been much confusion on this front because some states have been accepting J&J and another shot as being boosted, while others haven’t.

READ ALSO:

It is unclear if the new regulation will mean that states will all have to only accept J&J and two shots as being boosted. 

North Rhine-Westphalia, for instance, updated its regulations on January 16th and now requires that people who’ve had J&J and one shot have another jab to be boosted. 

Having a booster shot in Germany means that you do not have to take a Covid-19 test if you’re entering a venue, such as a restaurant or cafe, under the 2G-plus rules.

The Paul Ehrlich Institute said that proof of complete vaccination protection against Covid takes into account “the current state of medical science”. 

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