Moderna’s sales from its only product, the COVID-19 vaccine, fell 91% from last year

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The dark days of the pandemic are finally in the past for most of us—and that seems to be reflected in the earnings for Moderna, whose revenue is dependent on sales of its COVID-19 vaccine. 

In the first quarter of the year, Moderna reported $167 million in sales of its only product on the market, its COVID-19 vaccine called Spikevax. The company’s first quarter revenue is down 91% from the $1.9 billion it reported in the same quarter last year.

The plummeting revenue makes sense, considering the demand for the vaccine has been dropping since 2021, but it’s not all bad news for the vaccine maker: Its revenue surpassed Wall Street’s expectation of $97.5 million, and in turn, shares of Moderna jumped 7% on Thursday. Near the end of April, the company also announced a new innovation to integrate AI and ChatGPT in its operations as part of an ongoing partnership with OpenAI since 2023, according to OpenAI’s press release, and also has plans to roll out a new RSV vaccine this fall. 

Moderna’s first quarter net loss of $1.18 billion was also stronger than Wall Street expectations of $1.4 billion in net losses, and the company now anticipates $4 billion in full-year sales.

In its first-quarter earnings report, the Massachusetts-based biopharmaceutical company said its sales decline “aligns with the anticipated transition to a seasonal COVID-19 vaccine market,” which makes the market for the vaccine similar to that of the flu shot, and said that its revenue sales in 2023 were bolstered primarily by “delivered doses deferred from 2022.” 

It’s important to note that the vaccine maker, which employs about 5,100 people as of June 2023 and was founded in 2010, is in a very different category than some other pharmaceutical giants that made bank during the pandemic, like Pfizer, which was founded in 1849 and reported first-quarter sales of $14.88 billion; or Johnson and Johnson, which was founded in 1886 and posted $21.4 billion in first-quarter revenue. 

One reason for Moderna’s low sales is because Americans aren’t getting booster vaccines as frequently in the last few years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of the end of April this year, just over 22% of American adults reported getting an updated COVID-19 vaccine since mid-September. What’s more, about 28% of adults report receiving the most up-to-date vaccine, according to a Pew Research Center report, which also found that despite a public-health push encouraging adults to get both flu and COVID-19 vaccines at the same time, almost half of those who received a flu shot from a health care provider chose not to get the updated COVID-19 vaccine.

Moderna’s next focus is to continue rolling out mRNA vaccines, which teaches cells how to make the proteins that will trigger an immune response inside our bodies; up next will be its aforementioned RSV vaccine, and a seasonal flu vaccine. The company’s RSV vaccine entered the third of five clinical research phases the Food and Drug Administration requires of new medications, according to the earnings report, and expects initial regulatory approvals for the vaccine in the first half of this year, with the launch of the vaccine expected in fall 2024, just in time for cold-and-flu season. 

With its OpenAI partnership, Moderna hopes to implement AI across its business, with a goal to bring 15 new products to market in the next five years, according to a statement by OpenAI. Those products could range from RSV vaccines to individualized cancer treatments, which will help diversify the company’s future revenue.

“This is the start of a banner year for our vaccine platform as we continue to advance mRNA medicines for patients,” Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said in the earnings call. “This is just the beginning.”

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