In a letter addressed to the vaccine manufacturers, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services expressed concerns about price gouging and the potential exploitation of public trust in the companies during the ongoing Covid-19 response.
Lawmakers Criticize Potential Price Increase of Pfizer and Moderna Covid Vaccines
While none of the manufacturers have disclosed the exact pricing for their upcoming single-strain vaccines targeting the circulating omicron subvariant XBB.1.5, Pfizer and Moderna had previously indicated that they expected to price their shots between $110 and $130 per dose.
This estimate, representing a nearly fivefold increase over current prices for existing vaccines, has drawn criticism from lawmakers who point out the substantial profits the companies and their executives have already made from the Covid-19 pandemic.
The pricing of the vaccines will be crucial in the fall as the federal government plans to shift Covid vaccine distribution to the commercial market, meaning the manufacturers will sell their updated vaccines directly to healthcare providers instead of the government.
Moderna reiterated its readiness to supply ample vaccine quantities by fall, while Pfizer referred to a previous release stating their expectation to ship the new shots immediately pending regulatory review and approval. Novavax intends to make its new vaccine available by late September.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services emphasized the importance of following the government’s example in eliminating access barriers for the American public.
Regulatory Applications to the U.S. FDA for Updated Shots
The manufacturers are expected to collaborate with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and other payors to ensure that the necessary information is provided to cover the updated vaccines in the fall.
The department also advised the manufacturers to prepare their regulatory applications to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for their respective shots to allow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to make recommendations by September.
To assist uninsured Americans, federal and corporate programs are being developed to help cover the out-of-pocket costs of the updated shots in the fall.
The Biden administration’s HHS Bridge Access Program, a temporary initiative, will provide free Covid shots and treatments to uninsured Americans once the products transition to the commercial market.
Pfizer and Moderna have also expressed their intent to launch patient assistance programs for their Covid shots, although specific details about these programs are yet to be revealed.
In conclusion, the Biden administration is urging vaccine manufacturers to price their updated Covid vaccines reasonably to avoid taking advantage of public trust and to ensure broader access to the vaccines in the commercial market.
Lawmakers have criticized potential price increases, and federal programs are being developed to support uninsured Americans in covering the out-of-pocket costs of the vaccines.