Up to date Covid vaccines needs to be ‘fairly’ priced: HHS

A nurse prepares doses of the Pfizer vaccine during a COVID-19 immunization event at Josephine’s Southern Cooking in Chatham, Illinois on December 30, 2021.

Brian Cassella | Tribune News Service | Getty Images

The Biden government called for this on Thursday Pfizer, Modern And Novavax to price their updated Covid vaccines at a “reasonable” price when they launch them in the US this fall.

In a letter to syringe manufacturers, the Department of Health and Human Services said the price increases on the new vaccines “would take advantage of the confidence that the American people have placed in you through the response to COVID-19.”

None of the three manufacturers have revealed the exact price of their upcoming single-strain vaccines they plan to develop against the circulating Omicron subvariant XBB.1.5.

Pfizer and Moderna said earlier this year that they expect their vaccines to be priced between $110 and $130 per dose — a nearly five-fold increase from current prices for existing vaccines.

That estimate has been criticized by lawmakers, who point out that the two companies and their executives have made significant profits from the vaccinations during the pandemic.

Vaccination price points will be crucial in the fall as the federal government looks set to shift distribution of Covid vaccines to the commercial market. That means manufacturers will sell their updated vaccines directly to healthcare providers, not the government.

A Moderna spokesman echoed the company’s earlier comments about having sufficient vaccines in place in time for the fall.

A Pfizer spokesman, meanwhile, referred CNBC to a press release last month that said the company expects to ship its new vaccines immediately in the fall pending regulatory review and approval.

And a Novavax spokesman said the company appreciates the “continued collaboration and partnership” with the US government and aims to have its new vaccine available by the end of September.

“As we approach this transition, we anticipate that businesses will follow the example set by the U.S. government in removing barriers to access for the American public,” HHS said in a statement.

HHS said it expects manufacturers to work with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and other payers to ensure they have the information needed to cover the updated immunizations coming in the fall. The department also advised manufacturers to plan their submissions to the Food and Drug Administration for their respective vaccines.

HHS said preparing those filings early would allow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to make recommendations for the immunizations by September.

Federal and corporate programs plan to help fund the out-of-pocket cost of updated vaccinations for uninsured Americans this fall.

These include the Biden administration’s “HHS Bridge Access Program,” a temporary measure that will make free Covid vaccinations and treatments available to uninsured Americans once those products hit the commercial market.

Pfizer and Moderna also intend to launch patient assistance programs for their Covid vaccinations. However, there are still questions about what that effort will look like.

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