Pfizer expects about $15bn in revenue this year from its Covid-19 vaccine developed with BioNTech and has raised its 2021 profit guidance on hopes that having one of the first and most effective vaccines will boost its prospects.

The US drugmaker revealed its expectations for vaccine sales for the first time on Tuesday and said the number could rise as it signs more contracts.

Pfizer forecasts the profit margin as a percentage of revenue for the Covid-19 vaccine will be in the high 20s. Based on the group’s adjusted income before tax from the jab, this could top $4bn. This margin could increase after the pandemic ends, with the price of the vaccine rising and costs coming down. Costs and profits are split 50/50 with BioNTech.

Albert Bourla, Pfizer’s chief executive, said it was an “increasingly probable scenario” that people will require boosters, or different vaccine formulations to keep up with new variants of the virus.

This would result in a “durable” revenue stream, he added.

“If that was an open market, which means that the physicians and citizens they have the ability to choose which vaccine they will receive, I feel very comfortable that we will have the lion’s market share,” he said.

The BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine has shown the highest efficacy rate, at 95 per cent. Mr Bourla also added that Pfizer had increased its sales estimates for its vaccine after recent news about rivals J&J, which reported a lower efficacy rate at 66 per cent, and AstraZeneca, for the way the latter is “perceived in Europe”.

A commission advising the German government recently said the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine should not be used in over-65s, even though the European regulator has approved it for that age group.

Shares in Pfizer, which are trading roughly where they were before the pandemic, fell 3 per cent to $34.88. Mr Bourla said he did not think the company’s stock was receiving enough “credit” for its underlying business or for the prospects of the Covid-19 vaccine.

For 2021, Pfizer estimates that adjusted diluted earnings per share will be in the range of $3.10 to $3.20, up from an initial forecast of between $3 and $3.10. The company said it expected revenue for the full year of between $59.4bn and $61.4bn, in its first forecast for 2021.

Covid-19 vaccine makers have been split over whether to make a profit on the product. Oxford/AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson have said they will be not-for-profit for the duration of the pandemic, while BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna have a for-profit model.

The BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine is priced at about $19 a dose for a two-dose course, while Moderna is charging about $25 a dose to the US government, which supplied extensive funding, and between $32 to $37 for smaller orders. The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is priced at about $3 to $4 a dose. J&J’s vaccine, which has yet to be authorised, will cost about $10 but only a single dose is needed.

Pfizer said it had already supplied 65m doses of the vaccine, 29m of which had gone to the US. It added that it expected to complete its delivery of 200m doses to the US two months ahead of schedule, by the end of May.

The group beat expectations for revenue in the fourth quarter of 2020, driven by strong sales of cardiovascular and cancer drugs, as well as its vaccine for pneumonia, which benefited from extra demand because of the pandemic. Revenue rose 12 per cent year on year to $11.7bn, above the consensus forecast of $11.4bn.

But it missed the average analyst estimate for earnings per share of $0.48, reporting $0.42, a 14 per cent increase from the same period the year before.

The Covid-19 vaccine contributed $154m in the three months until the end of the year, after it received emergency use authorisations in the US, UK and EU in December.

Results and forecasts exclude its Upjohn unit, as Pfizer closed the transaction to merge the generics business with Mylan during the quarter.