US: After racing to build capacity and meet once seemingly insatiable orders for COVID-19 shots, the global vaccine industry is facing waning demand as many late-to-market producers fight over a slowing market.
The trend is poised to rein in the blockbuster sales that global pharmaceutical giants from Pfizer to AstraZeneca saw at the peak of the pandemic.
It also stands to create new problems for local manufacturers from India to Indonesia that built mammoth capacity to make shots but are now grappling with excess supply.
Even as boosters are likely to keep demand alive for COVID-19 inoculations worldwide, the desperate shortages that existed for much of last year have waned.
Instead, in a dramatic reversal, the possibility of a global glut is now looking more likely.
Across the world more than 11 billion doses have been administered, with uptake increasingly coming from poorer countries with low rates of coverage.
But after grappling with severe shortages last year, Covax, the World Health Organisation-backed sharing initiative supplying low-to-middle-income countries, said in January that stocks are exceeding demand.
“Supply is exceeding demand in much of the world, even with many countries rolling out booster shots,” said Scott Rosenstein, a New York-based special health-care adviser to Eurasia Group, who expects production to taper off this year and next unless there is a real variant “curve ball”.
The number of shots needed in the coming years is expected to decline from the early days of the pandemic. Meanwhile, a growing number of manufacturers are breaking into the market.
More than 9 billion doses could be produced in 2022, but vaccine demand may decline to a rate of about 2.2 billion to 4.4 billion doses per year in 2023 and beyond, with a clearer picture emerging over time, according to analytics firm Airfinity.
– THE STRAITS TIMES