- Moderna’s plan to hike the price of its COVID-19 vaccine has drawn fire from Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warren and Peter Welch, who criticized the company’s “greed” in a letter to CEO Stéphane Bancel Tuesday.
- Warren and Welch gave Bancel until Feb. 7 to answer a series of questions about sales and profits generated by the vaccine and told him to detail any communication between Moderna and fellow COVID-19 vaccine developer Pfizer.
- Moderna’s planned pricing range — from $110 to $130 per dose — matches the one laid out by a Pfizer executive in October. It’s also notably higher than the $64-$100 range floated by a Moderna official in September.
Although COVID-19 remains a major public health threat, government funding for vaccines is drying up as the immediate crisis ebbs. Without government supply contracts in place, Moderna and Pfizer are planning a transition to the private marketplace and aim to charge more than the $25-$30 a dose the U.S. government has previously paid.
But an increase of as much as five times the current effective price is hard to justify, the White House said after Bancel gave Moderna’s projected range to the Wall Street Journal earlier this month. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, went a step further, calling it “outrageous” in a Jan. 10 letter that accused Moderna of “unacceptable corporate greed.”
Sanders quoted an estimate that the cost to produce the Moderna vaccine could be as low as $2.85 per dose. Any price increases should be tempered by the fact that the U.S. government contributed some $1.7 billion to the research and development of the vaccine, he wrote.
Warren, Welch and Sanders also zeroed in on the effect for uninsured and underinsured Americans. Government contracts mean COVID-19 vaccines have been free to all Americans until now, but that could change when federal funding ends.
“Your company has already earned billions in profits from the vaccine, which benefited from extensive taxpayer support for research and development,” wrote Warren, of Massachusetts, and Welch, of Vermont. “And your proposed price increase threatens to reduce access to a life-saving vaccine while boosting your company’s profits.”
Moderna brought in sales of about $18.4 billion for its COVID-19 vaccine last year, according to a recent company presentation. And while revenue may drop in 2023, the “floor” will still be at least $5 billion because of advanced purchase agreements and contracts that were deferred in 2022.
Pfizer, meanwhile, estimated in November that sales of its COVID-19 vaccine would reach about $34 billion in 2022. Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told investors earlier this month that 2023 will probably be the lowest sales year because of stockpiles and the transition from government purchases. While the usage may be the same as in 2024, revenue will increase because everyone will be paying new prices, he said.