Pfizer sharply lifted sales forecasts for its Covid-19 vaccine, raising full-year revenue projections for the jab from $15bn to $26bn after reporting a $3.5bn contribution in the first quarter.

The US pharmaceutical group, which splits profits from the vaccine with its German development partner BioNTech, lifted its overall 2021 revenue guidance on Tuesday from $61.4bn to up to $72.5bn, mainly because of contracts signed for the delivery of 1.6bn doses in 2021.

First-quarter revenues of $14.6bn were up 45 per cent on the same period last year and ahead of analysts’ forecasts of $13.7bn. Diluted earnings per share hit 86 cents.

The two-dose Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine is now sold in more than 50 countries. With a 95 per cent efficacy rate, it is the most popular jab administered in the US, accounting for more than 131m doses given, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Chief executive Albert Bourla said he expected “durable demand” for the vaccine, similar to that for flu shots, reflecting expectations that coronavirus will remain in perpetual circulation and be treated like other diseases.

“We believe that there will be a need for boosters and . . . believe that likely annual revaccinations or regular revaccinations will be required,” he told analysts.

“I couldn’t be prouder of the way Pfizer has started 2021,” he said. “We continued to accelerate production and shipments of our Covid-19 vaccine — in many cases exceeding our contractual obligations for delivery timelines.”

His comments came after the EU last week said it would sue Pfizer’s European rival AstraZeneca over vaccine supply shortfalls.

Pfizer and BioNTech are selling their Covid vaccine for profit, unlike Johnson & Johnson and Oxford/AstraZeneca.

As of May 3, a total of 430m doses of the Pfizer vaccine had been shipped to 91 countries. Pfizer plans to apply for full Food and Drug Administration approval of its vaccine at the end of May, and US regulators are expected to authorise its use in adolescents aged 12-15 in the coming days.

Bourla said Pfizer remained in discussions with New Delhi regarding the rollout of its vaccine in India, as the country grapples with a catastrophic wave of coronavirus. More than 350,000 new cases were detected in India on Monday, sending the nation’s total past 20m.

Bourla said India had sought additional studies for the vaccine but “clearly we were not ready to allocate resources to something like that when we were allocating all the resources into variants, kids, pregnant women”.

“We are hopeful that they would change this policy about conducting some local trials and we will find a path forward so we can provide the vaccine,” he added.

Pfizer expects to have the capacity to manufacture 2.5bn vaccine doses in 2021 and at least 3bn in 2022, and said data from trials of a booster vaccine targeting a variant first detected in South Africa were expected in early July.

The New York-based company also outlined its development plans, including a trial of its pneumonia vaccine with the Covid booster shot, with results expected in the third quarter of 2021.

Data were submitted to the FDA on Friday showing that the jab can be stored in a refrigerator for four weeks, Bourla said, making it easier for vaccination sites without freezers to keep the jab.

The drugmaker is also working on a new vaccine formulation that could be stored in a refrigerator for up to 10 weeks, data for which is expected in August.

Pfizer’s share price was flat in midday trading in New York.