WASHINGTON, DC (DC News Now) — COVID-19 vaccines may soon come at a new cost, and at higher rates to consumers as the US government plans to phase-out the program allowing for no out-of-pocket prices for shots.
Both Pfizer and Moderna reportedly could charge up to $130 for one dose of their COVID vaccine, initially detailed by the Wall Street Journal.
The US government currently pays roughly $30 for one dose, but funding to back their distribution program is slated to dry out in 2023 — demand for COVID vaccines in the US has also declined.
“Our goal is to transition procurement and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics from a federally managed system to the commercial marketplace in a thoughtful, well-coordinated manner that leaves no one behind,” said Dawn O’Connell, assistant secretary for preparedness and response with the US Department of Health and Human services, last fall.
the chance pfizer and moderna charges significantly more for these vaccines prompted a
The chance the two major vaccine manufacturers in the US begin offsetting the cost to consumers drew a blistering rebuke from Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who is also the chairman of the US Senate Health Commitee.
Sanders claimed the move would cost taxpayers billions of dollars, and will increase health insurance premiums.
“The purpose of the recent taxpayer investment in Moderna was to protect the health and lives of the American people, not to turn a handful of corporate executives and investors into multi-billionaires,” Sanders said in a letter sent to Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel.
Finance Professor at the University of Maryland Dr. David Kass said vaccine manufacturers, historically, offset costs to all consumers and make some revenue in the process, regardless if customers do or not get a vaccine.
“That’s the way insurance works. You share the risk, and you share the cost for the entire population,” Dr. Kass told DC News Now.
So, how may $130 COVID shots compare to existing vaccines? According to vaccine prices listed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the one dose price would surpass several vaccines, by far:
Flu shots range from $14 to $28, tetanus shots cost between $17 an $50. In addition, the price for measles, mumps and rubella runs between $23 and $90 — all of which are prices for packages of multiple doses.
Time will tell which insurers may cover most of the costs for COVID vaccines: at that time, consumers could shop around for coverage that meets their needs.
But for people without insurance, Dr. Kass said “the problem here is, if the individual does not have insurance, that individual has no one negotiating for him or her, and all that person can do is use the marketplace–competition in the marketplace–other companies competing for that individual’s business, and that individual could try to get quotes from different companies.”
DC News Now took several questions to seven of the country’s largest health insurers, including Aetna, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Optima Health and United Health, and did not receive a response for the time of this report’s publication.