Investors balk at Biden's support for waiving vaccine IPs

May 6, 2021

The Biden administration said this week it would support a temporary waiver on vaccine intellectual property rights to support production in other countries.

Shares for a number of companies producing COVID-19 vaccines tumbled by about 2-6% in the U.S. in response. In Germany, shares for BioNTech fell by as much as 19% while Chinese vaccine makers such as CanSino Biologics plummeted by 22% in Hong Kong. 

In order for any IP waiver to go through, all 164 member countries of the World Trade Organization would have to agree to it.

In general, drugmakers have been riding historic highs on COVID-19 vaccine sales this year. Pfizer adjusted its estimated 2021 sales forecast for its vaccine from $15 billion to $26 billion. Moderna, meanwhile, turned a profit for the first time in 2021 with $19.2 billion in contracted vaccine sales on the books. (By comparison: Humira, the best-selling drug in the world, raked in about $20 billion in sales last year.)

Yet, the IP waiver is one of several upcoming bumps in the road. Although drugmakers now expect that people will likely need a COVID-19 vaccine booster for years to come, the rate of vaccines in the U.S. has slowed as hesitancy remains a vexing issue. More drugmakers are also preparing to apply for approval for their candidates around the world, which could increase competition and price erosion.