COVID-19 economy wanes along with pandemic’s urgency
October 19, 2023

Giant drugmaker Pfizer has cut its revenue forecast for the year by $9 billon, largely due to weaker-than-expected sales of the company’s COVID-19 booster and the treatment Paxlovid. Like so many darlings of the COVID economy, Pfizer has seen a dramatic reversal of fortune as we’ve exited the emergency phase of the pandemic.

This new chapter of the pandemic seems to have a lot more commercials. One features Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce with a nod to his potentially divided attention as Taylor Swift’s latest love interest.

If the celebrity-heavy ads feel like a hard sell, it may be because the COVID vaccine is too, said analyst Mayank Mamtani with B. Riley Securities.

“The onus is maybe on the private companies like Pfizer, Moderna, Novavax to actually drive behavior,” Mamtani said.

This fall’s booster is the first COVID-19 vaccine that’s not being paid for by the government, and uptake of boosters was already low.

It’s a similar story for domestic producers of personal protective equipment, or PPE.

“A lot of the companies that started producing masks and respirators became economically not viable,” said Dan Izhaky, who runs United Safety Technology. That’s one of many companies that sprang up in 2020 with federal investment to patch holes in the domestic PPE supply chain.

But Izhaky said that without continued government support, the U.S. industry can’t compete.

“If something were to happen, we’d be in a very, very precarious situation,” Izhaky said.

Earlier this year, one COVID-19 test maker — Lucira Health — filed for bankruptcy, while another — Ellume — was liquidated.

And drugstores that once stepped up to roll out COVID testing and vaccinations are now struggling, said Bill Doucette, a pharmacy professor at the University of Iowa.

“They don’t have that cushion or that additional revenue stream that they had,” Doucette said.

They’re looking at providing other services, including helping people manage chronic conditions like diabetes.