Lawmakers probe Pfizer's planned market price for its COVID-19 vaccine

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Representative and Senator-elect Peter Welch sent a letter to Pfizer Dec. 12 to seek reasoning behind the company's proposal to "quadruple" the cost of its COVID-19 vaccine" with "a 10,000 percent markup over what experts estimate as the cost of production."

The U.S. has footed the bill since they became authorized for public use in late 2020, but with dwindling federal funds, an encroaching expiration date on the pandemic's public health emergency and Pfizer's plan to package the product in single-dose vials, the vaccine-maker's commercial distribution strategy is facing scrutiny.

Albert Bourla, Pfizer's CEO, has previously said the tentative $110 to $130 market price for the vaccine won't be felt by consumers because the drugmaker plans for payers to cover it. In its first government contract, the U.S. paid Pfizer $19.50 per dose, and since then, that cost increased to about $30.50 per dose. 

"This price increase represents pure and deadly greed on the part of the company, and could result in the COVID-induced fatalities of many uninsured Americans that may be unable to afford the vaccine," Ms. Warren and Mr. Welch wrote in their letter.

The Congress members said Pfizer's proposed vaccine price could set the standard for other vaccine-makers, such as Moderna and Novavax, who have not yet reported market prices for their COVID-19 shots. 

"That's a negotiation strategy," Georges Benjamin, MD, executive director of the American Public Health Association, told Becker's. "Going from $0 to $100 for a vaccine [is] probably not going to happen.

At the end of the letter, Ms. Warren and Mr. Welch asked Mr. Bourla to share how much of Pfizer's $81.3 billion revenue from 2021 was from its COVID-19 vaccine sales, how that figure will translate into its 2022 revenue and the difference expected in its 2023 revenue by changing the price. 

 

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