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During the pandemic, were great vaccines bad business? A company-by-company review

It’s been four years since Covid-19 emerged, igniting a pandemic that killed millions of people and brought the world to its knees. A key factor in taming the pandemic was the creation of effective vaccines, which have saved millions of lives.

You’d think developing a successful vaccine would be an unmitigated win, from a financial perspective. And, indeed, for Pfizer and its partner BioNTech, as well as for Moderna — whose vaccines were the most widely used in the United States and much of the world — the revenues generated were absolutely staggering. But investors have shrugged at those sales as gains that will not be repeated.

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Total sales of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine surpassed $80 billion, and more than 400 million doses of the shot and subsequent boosters have been administered in the U.S. alone. But the company’s stock price fell 32% over the past five years. Meanwhile, AstraZeneca, which told STAT it has not booked sales from its vaccine since last April and does not expect future sales, has seen its share price rise 64%. Merck, which saw its vaccine efforts fail twice, is up 56%.

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