Pfizer Shares Gain Amid Pushback on COVID Vaccine Rollout Headlines

Pfizer's plans to rollout 50 million doses of its COVID 19 vaccine before the end of the year, a target it revealed on November 9. It still plans to manufacture 1.3 billion doses over the whole of 2021.
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Pfizer Inc.  (PFE) - Get Report shares edged higher Friday as the drugmaker attempted to push back on headlines that suggested it had made major changes to its vaccine production forecasts.

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that Pfizer had cuts its original estimate of delivering 100 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine, known as BNT162b2, in half, citing issues in gathering raw materials and scaling-up production with its German partner BioNTech  (BNTX) - Get Report.

Pfizer said the "scale-up of the raw material supply chain took longer than expected", and that its late-stage trials lasted longer than anticipated, but added doses are now "being made at a rapid pace".

However, the 50 million estimate for 2020 was tagged in Pfizer's November 9 update to investors -- and reported here on TheStreet -- and included the first data from late-stage trials that showed a 95% efficacy rate for the messenger RNA-based treatment. Pfizer says it still holds to its 2021 forecast of 1.3 billion doses, and expects to be able to roll-out this year's batch "within hours' of approval Emergency Use Approval authorization from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, which is set to meet on December 10. 

Pfizer shares were marked 0.8% higher in early trading Friday to change hands at $40.41 each. BioNTech's U.S.-listed shares, meanwhile, were marked 2.9% lower on the Nasdaq at $115.29 each. 

Operation Warp Speed, the U.S. government's vaccine effort run by the Department of Health and Human Services, expects to distribute around 6.4 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine initially, with the aim of releasing around 40 million before the end of the year.

OWS Advisor Moncef Slaoui told CNBC that he knows of no change to Pfizer's commitment to the U.S., adding "I haven't been informed of any issues."

In Britain, where the vaccine received its first approval from health authorities earlier this week following an order of 40 million doses, business minister Alok Sharma said the number of doses expected before the end of the year will depend on the pace of Pfizer's manufacturing.

"We are starting initially with 800,000 and then let's see where we end up by the end of the year in terms of the numbers that we acquire. That will depend on the manufacturing," Sharma told Britain's Sky News. "I hope we will have some millions by the end of this year but of course what we also always said is that the vast majority of this vaccination program will take place in the new year."