Albert Bourla, chief executive officer of Pfizer pharmaceutical company, at the New York Stock Exchange in New York on Jan. 17, 2019. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
The Epoch Times
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said the company’s COVID-19 vaccine will be “free for all Americans” because insurance companies and other groups will pay the cost, although critics have said his claims aren’t true.
“Americans will see no difference,” Bourla told STAT Summit last week. STAT is a health care publication. The vaccine, he added, will “be free for them to get, regardless of the insurance they have.”
However, Bourla did not mention whether uninsured Americans would have to pay for the vaccine. Currently, the federal government is paying Pfizer $30 per dose of the mRNA vaccine and has been distributing it to the public.
The drug giant announced in October that it would raise the price of its vaccine to $130 per dose after the federal government uses up the vials it has purchased and the vaccine goes on the open market in 2023 when the U.S. public health emergency expires.
David Mitchell, co-founder of advocacy group Patients for Affordable Drugs, said in a recent interview that Bourla’s comments were not truthful. Speaking to the Daily Mail, he said that taxpayers, patients, consumers, and others would eventually foot the bill for the vaccine.
Bourla “knows it’s not true,” he said, referring to claims of the vaccine being free. “The vaccine is not going to be free. He is going to charge $120 list price for the vaccine and it will be paid. The questions is who will pay it.”
Bourla’s recent comment at the STAT Summit is “more … pharma double talk,” Mitchell wrote on Twitter. He previously stated that the higher cost of the Pfizer vaccine absorbed by insurance companies will be passed on in the form of higher insurance premiums.
In announcing the price hike, Pfizer executive Angela Lukin said that the firm will expect to quadruple the cost of the COVID-19 vaccine to about $110 to $130 per dose.
“We are confident that the U.S. price point of the COVID-19 vaccine reflects its overall cost effectiveness and ensures the price will not be a barrier for access for patients,” Lukin said in mid-October. Meanwhile, it is currently unclear what kind of access people without health insurance will have to the vaccine.
Lukin said she does not expect purchasing of the vaccines to transfer to the private sector until the first quarter of 2023 “at the earliest.” The move is dependent on the government-contracted supply being depleted.
Pfizer said it expects the COVID-19 market to be about the size of the flu shot market on an annual basis for adults, but that the pediatric market would take longer to build based on shots given so far.
On Nov. 1, Pfizer raised its forecast on 2022 sales of its COVID-19 vaccine by $2 billion to $34 billion, and stated new deals and drugs in development should help replace future declining vaccine sales and lost revenue from patent expirations. Sales of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine are down from pandemic highs as many countries have neared the end of their primary vaccination campaigns.
Earlier this month, the federal government signaled that it would extend its public health emergency in January after a 60-day deadline to provide notice expired. Last week, a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) official confirmed in a statement that the emergency will remain, which will lead to insurance firms absorbing the cost of the Pfizer vaccine.
Sarah Lovenheim, assistant secretary for public affairs at HHS, said the U.S. public health emergency “remains in effect and as HHS committed to earlier, we will provide a 60-day notice to states before any possible termination or expiration.”
Lovenheim and other officials did not signal when the emergency would be dropped. It was implemented in early 2020 following the reports of COVID-19 occurring in the United States.
For months, Republican lawmakers have pushed the White House to end the federal emergency and said there is no justification for keeping it intact. They cited President Joe Biden’s public comments regarding the COVID-19 pandemic being “over” earlier in the fall.
Bourla’s remarks come about two weeks after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other groups published a study that found children as young as 12 have an elevated risk of experiencing heart inflammation after receiving Pfizer’s shot.
The researchers found that myocarditis and pericarditis, two forms of heart inflammation, met the threshold for a safety signal for children between the ages of 12 and 17 after they received the second and third doses of the mRNA vaccine.
“The signal detected for myocarditis/pericarditis is consistent with published peer-reviewed publications demonstrating an elevated risk of myocarditis/pericarditis following mRNA vaccines, especially among younger males aged 12-29 years,” the researchers said.
Reuters contributed to this report.