Pfizer CEO says 400% price hike on COVID vaccines will be 'free'

Pfizer CEO says 400% price hike on COVID vaccines will be ‘free’

Enlarge / Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla speaks during a press conference with the President of the European Commission after a visit to oversee the production of the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine at the factory of the American pharmaceutical company Pfizer , in Puurs, on April 23, 2021.

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla claimed at a media event last week that the company’s COVID-19 vaccines will continue to be “free to all Americans,” despite the company’s plan to increase the price of the vaccine by around 400% – a price difference which will be borne by the mutuals.

The company said in October that it plans to raise the price of a dose of its COVID-19 vaccine from around $30 to somewhere between $110 and $130 as it moves the vaccines to the commercial market. next year.

So far, all COVID-19 vaccines in the United States have been purchased by the US government, which paid $30.48 per dose in its latest vaccine supply agreement in June. The US government had previously paid $24 per dose in July 2021 and $19.50 per dose in July 2020. The government has offered all doses to Americans free of charge.

Now, society expects health insurance companies to foot the bill, even if they are larger. “Based on our current knowledge, when we move into a traditional business model, anyone with commercial or government insurance who is eligible for the vaccine should be able to access the vaccine without any outlay,” said Angela Lukin, U.S. President of Pfizer. of global primary care, said in an October call with investors.

This assumption led Bourla to suggest last week that the sharp rise in prices would be “for free”.

“Americans won’t see any difference,” he said, according to Stat News, which hosted the event. The vaccine will be “free for them, regardless of the insurance they have”.

” Double speech “

But outsiders were quick to point out the flaws in that statement. On the one hand, it would seem that the shots would no longer be free for those who do not have insurance. Also, for those with insurance, the absence of disbursements at the time of vaccination does not mean that the price increase is free. The increased price will be absorbed by health insurance companies, which can pass on the extra cost in the form of higher premiums.

The cost “ultimately comes from workers’ paychecks“said Stat health care reporter Bob Herman.

David Mitchell, co-founder of the patient advocacy group for Affordable Medicines, echoed that point. “[Bourla said] repeatedly that COVID vaccines priced at $120 a dose will be “free.” Not true,” Mitchell tweeted. “It’s more Bourla/pharma doublespeak.”

It’s unclear what price Moderna will set for its COVID-19 vaccine when it hits the commercial market next year. But, financial analysts who spoke to Reuters said Pfizer’s pricing could drive up rivals’ prices.

Pfizer’s price is not far outside the normal range for vaccines. While the annual flu shot can range from $50 to $95 at CVS for those without insurance, an MMR shot costs $135, a shingles shot costs $179, and meningitis shots cost just over $200.

Still, Pfizer’s price of between $110 and $130 is higher than financial analysts expected for COVID-19 vaccines. “That’s significantly more than our assumption of $50 per shot,” Wells Fargo analyst Mohit Bansal wrote in a research note, according to Reuters. Bansal added that the pricing could add about $2.5 billion to $3 billion to Pfizer’s annual revenue.

It is unclear how the rise in commercial prices – likely to occur in the first quarter of next year – will influence the adoption of boosters. Currently, adoption is dismal. Only 11% of Americans eligible for an updated COVID-19 reminder received one before Thanksgiving, according to data tracking by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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