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Moderna defends vax price hike, despite billions in taxpayer funding

The company is planning to raise the price of its COVID-19 vaccine from about $26 per dose up to $130 per dose.
Posted at 9:47 AM, Mar 23, 2023

The head of Moderna is defending his company's decision to raise the price of its COVID-19 vaccine fivefold, despite receiving funding for research and development from the U.S. government.

Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel testified before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee on Wednesday over the company's decision.

Committee chairman Sen. Bernie Sanders grilled the price hike as a decision based on "corporate greed." 

"As a matter of public record, U.S. taxpayers spent $12 billion on the research, development, and procurement of the NIH-Moderna COVID vaccine," Sanders said.

According to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the federal government paid Moderna about $16 per dose in 2020 and a little more than $26 per dose last summer.

Now the company wants to raise the price per dose up to $130 once the federal public health emergency ends in May.

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Sanders also noted that Moderna has raked in more than $20 billion in profits over the past two years, mostly due to taxpayer funding.

“As soon as Moderna started to receive billions of dollars from the federal government, Mr. Bancel literally became a billionaire overnight and is now worth over $4 billion. He was also able to secure a golden parachute for himself worth another $926 million after he leaves the company,” Sanders said. “But let’s be clear: Mr. Bancel is not alone. None of these four individuals [testifying] were billionaires before the taxpayers of our country funded the COVID-19 vaccine.”

In total, Moderna reported more than $37 billion in revenue over the past two years, primarily due to sales of its vaccine.

Bancel said Moderna gave the government discounts in the early days of the pandemic and now needs to raise the price of the vaccine due to a decline in demand. He also said the company must continue producing doses, but has to eat the cost if they go unused.

“The volume we had during the pandemic gave us economies of scale we won’t have anymore,” Bancel said.

He noted that patients with insurance won't have to pay out of pocket for the shots and that the company also offers assistance to cover the costs for those who are uninsured.

Pfizer has also announced plans to more than quadruple the price of its COVID-19 vaccine. 

The key difference is that Pfizer received zero funding from the U.S. government to develop its vaccine.