CEO Stéphane Bancel is facing a Senate panel Wednesday over the drugmaker’s plan to quadruple the cost of its COVID-19 vaccine.
Bancel stands before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, chaired by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who will press the executive on the company’s decision to raise the price ahead of the vaccine reaching the commercial market this fall.
In January, Sanders sent a letter to Bancel urging him to call off the price hike, saying “the purpose of the recent taxpayer investment in was to protect the health and lives of the American people, not to turn a handful of corporate executives and investors into multi-billionaires.”
In February, Sanders’ committee released a scathing report on the lucrative compensation packages that have been paid to pharmaceutical executives throughout the pandemic.
Also last month, announced a new patient assistance program to provide free vaccines to all Americans, even after the U.S. government officially ends its public health emergency in May.
“As the public health emergency ends, the United States government will no longer be providing vaccines at no cost. remains committed to ensuring that people in the United States will have access to our COVID-19 vaccines regardless of ability to pay,” the drug company said.
Before Bancel’s appearance, Sanders’ office issued a statement claiming the executive “became a billionaire during the pandemic after U.S. taxpayers gave his company billions of dollars to research, develop, and distribute its COVID-19 vaccine.”
The federal government purchased millions of vaccine doses from , which have been provided to the public for free to curtail the spread of the virus, with sharing in $102 billion in total revenue from the purchases in 2021 — 137% above the previous year.
In recent interviews, president Stephen Hoge has brushed off criticism about the imminent price hike, noting that moving a government-funded product into the commercial market was a risky and unprecedented business proposition for the company.
“This has literally never happened before. And so what we are trying to do, as one of the many manufacturers in the space, is to pick a price we think reflects the value of the vaccine … but also reflects the complexity of moving from this pandemic market to a commercial market,” Hoge told Yahoo News.
Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has also indicated a plan to sell its vaccine for as much as $130 per dose on the open market.
Previously, Sanders called on not to raise the price of the vaccine — which he said costs the corporate giant $2.85 to make, but would be unaffordable to everyday consumers at a cost of $130.
Other expert witnesses are also expected to testify at Wednesday’s hearing in the Hart Senate Office Building about the impact of pricing, including several legal and medical professors from some of the nation’s foremost universities.
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