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Abbott sees no hit to demand for COVID-19 tests from vaccine

FILE PHOTO: Boxes of Abbott's heart stents are pictured inside a store at a hospital in New Delhi, India, April 27, 2018. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi/File Photo

(Reuters) - Abbott Laboratories said on Thursday demand for its coronavirus tests will likely remain high even after a safe and effective vaccine is available as the medical device maker forecast full-year profit above analysts’ estimates.

Drugmakers across the globe are racing to ready a vaccine for the respiratory illness and experts say it could take 12-18 months to develop one.

“It’s clear that the need for testing is large and it isn’t going away,” Chief Executive Officer Robert Ford said on a post-earnings conference call.

“Even when you have a vaccine ... I can see patients going to physician’s office with a fever, and they want to know is it influenza? Is it the flu? Is it COVID?”

Since March, Abbott has won U.S. authorization for five coronavirus tests, including one that can deliver results within minutes and is used at the White House, shielding it from a slide in demand for its medical devices and helping it beat second-quarter profit estimate.

The company forecast adjusted earnings of at least $3.25 per share for the year after suspending its outlook in April due to uncertainties sparked by the outbreak. Analysts on average were expecting $2.87 per share, according to Refinitiv IBES data.

Abbott must be feeling very good about some of the diagnostics tailwinds to sustain into second half of the year to put a floor on earnings per share given the uncertainty around a second wave of infections and Medtech procedure volume trends, said Evercore ISI analyst Vijay Kumar.

Worldwide sales of Abbott’s medical devices slumped 21.2% in the quarter, but the company said procedure volumes improved significantly over the period.

Abbott is also betting on new products, including the launch of its newly approved continuous glucose monitoring device, FreeStyle Libre 2, in the next few weeks.

Reporting by Trisha Roy and Manojna Maddipatla in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel and Sriraj Kalluvila