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Vaccine sales decline for the first time in decades

For the first time in decades, sales of vaccines declined in 2011, due in large part to a weak flu season, said a recent report from healthcare market research publisher Kalorama Information.

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According to the report, “Vaccines 2012 World Market Analysis, Key Players, Trends, Pediatrics and Adult Segments,” there was a 30 percent drop in the influenza vaccine market in 2011, which was at $19.8 billion, down from $24.1 billion in 2010.

The report said that while sales of adult influenza vaccines had been strong in 2009 and 2010 due to government stockpiling of new avian and swine flu vaccines, sales have since returned to earlier, pre-pandemic levels. All of the major flu vaccine manufacturers reported significant declines from 2010.

“Influenza is such a large market it accounted for nearly a $4 billion drop in the (overall vaccine) market,” said Bruce Carlson, Kalorama’s publisher. “You could say in 2009 and 2010, governments over-ordered – they stocked up on too much flu vaccine and the population that was willing to ‘take the jab’ wasn’t there at the end of the day.”

[Also: Sales of new vaccines expected to reach $24B by 2020]

Carlson does not believe the dip in sales in 2011 is indicative of a long-term trend.

“There is much more awareness of flu vaccine due to 2009’s H1N1 scare and the retail promotion of the vaccine,” he said. “We still think the (vaccine) market – even influenza – will grow, but 2009 and 2010 are looking like boom years and 2011 a bit of a bust year for influenza vaccine. That could all change quite easily if the flu season is strong this year.”   

Pharmaceutical companies are still investing significantly in the research and development of vaccines, noted Carlson.

"We should be clear that our estimate reflects overall vaccine sales, and these results mostly have to do with influenza and a few other categories and do not change the overall trend that pharmaceutical companies are heavily interested in vaccines as part of their growth strategies," he said.