Bernie Sanders blasts Moderna’s plans to hike Covid shot price as ‘unacceptable corporate greed’

Senator Bernie Sanders has blasted Moderna for ‘unacceptable corporate greed’ after revealed the firm’s plan to jack up the price of its Covid shot.

In a letter sent this week to Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel, Sen. Sanders asked the drugmaker not to go ahead with the from $26 to $130 price increases on its Covid vaccine, saying it could make the shot unaffordable for millions of Americans.

He added that raising the price of the shot was particularly offensive given that the US government provided more than $2billion in taxpayer money to fund the development of the vaccine.

Moderna – which turned an estimated $39 billion in profit last year – benefitted from a multi-billion-dollar taxpayer-funded support package for designing and testing its Covid shot as part of the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed. 

US Senator Bernie Sanders blasted Covid shot maker Moderna for its ‘unacceptable corporate greed’ in its plans to raise vaccine prices. Sen. Sanders is set to become chairman of the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions later this month

Sen. Sanders said: ‘You propose to make the vaccine unaffordable for the residents of this country who made the production of the vaccine possible. That is not acceptable.’

Mr Bancel told last week that Moderna intends to charge between ‘$110 to $130’ per dose for the vaccine when it hits the open market later this year, in line with its rival Pfizer.

The top end of that range is around eight times the price in the earliest US contracts for the vaccine and five times the $26 a dose the government paid for booster shots last year.

Sen. Sanders wrote: ‘Now, in the midst of a continuing public health crisis and a growing federal deficit, is not the time for Moderna to be quadrupling the price of this vaccine. Now is not the time for unacceptable corporate greed.’

Last year, Moderna’s Covid vaccine sales were around $18.4 billion. 

Its profits are expected to fall sharply this year even with the price increases, as demand for the shots has dropped off. 

The drug company said Monday it expects a minimum of $5 billion in revenue from the shots this year.

In an emailed statement, the biotech giant said: ‘While we are still in discussions with stakeholders on the price of our Covid-19 vaccines, Moderna is committed to pricing that reflects the value that Covid-19 vaccines bring to patients, healthcare systems, and society.’

Moderna added that under the Affordable Care Act, its Covid shots will remain available at no cost for most Americans. 

Covid vaccines have been free to Americans regardless of insurance status during the pandemic.

This is thanks to Operation Warp Speed, which was adopted in the early weeks of the pandemic to accelerate the development of Covid vaccines and treatments.

The Trump administration shelled out more than $12 billion to biotech companies including Moderna, Janssen, and Novavax to compress the timeline for a viable vaccine. 

Moderna, a Massachusetts-based biotech startup, inked several contracts with the federal government totaling more than $2.4 billion in the first year of the pandemic.

In July 2022, the US government awarded a $1.74 billion agreement to secure more than 65 million additional doses of Moderna’s Covid vaccine, bringing the total number of shots procured to more than 560 million.

When those run out, the negotiation of the cost of vaccines will soon be down to insurance companies and private purchasers – in the absence of the federal government buying up additional doses at a reasonable price.

The subsidized shots have thus far been free for all Americans regardless of whether they have health insurance. And while insured Americans likely won’t see a difference when they go to get the shots, those without coverage will be saddled with a high price.

Insurance premiums will cover the price hike, meaning Americans will not actually pay out-of-pocket, but it will still push up premiums all around. 

A recent Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of 2023 premium filings showed that some insurers expect the commercialization of vaccines to push up premium costs across the board. And those costs could continue to put upward pressure on premiums for years to come.  

Mr Bancel’s comments confirmed lawmakers’ fears that Pfizer’s price hike would prompt other Covid shot makers to also raise their price.

Democrats Sen Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts and Sen-elect Representative Peter Welch of Vermont accused Pfizer of ‘unseemly profiteering’ and ‘pure and deadly greed’ in a scathing letter to its CEO Albert Bourla last month, and urged him to change course.

Unlike Moderna, Pfizer and its partner company BioNTech did not accept federal money to fuel research and development of a covid vaccine. Still, that is not to say that Pfizer did not receive backing from the US government.

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