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Warren, Welch press Pfizer CEO on COVID vaccine price hike

A pair of Democrats are pressing Pfizer about the company’s plans to raise the price of its COVID-19 vaccine.

In a letter to Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), a senator-elect, slammed the move as “pure and deadly greed” and expressed concern it could result in other vaccine manufacturers, such as Moderna and Novavax, raising the prices of their vaccines.

The Democrats asked for information about the justification for the price increase and the impact of the increase on Americans who could be required to pay high out-of-pocket costs for the vaccine.

“We urge you to back off from your proposed price increases and ensure COVID-19 vaccines are reasonably priced and accessible to people across the United States,” Warren and Welch wrote. 

Pfizer expects to roughly quadruple the price of its COVID-19 vaccine to between $110 and $130 per dose once the U.S. government’s purchasing program ends early next year. 

Pfizer’s contract with the U.S. government runs through the end of the year. Federal health officials have said they anticipate shifting COVID-19 vaccines, tests and treatments to the commercial marketplace sometime next year.

The letter comes as Congress seems unlikely to fund the administration’s request for an additional $10 billion in COVID-19 funding, which officials said is needed to help ease the transition. 

Vaccines will still be free to people with private insurance, though the cost will likely be reflected in premiums. Even with insurance, patients will likely see costs if they go to an out-of-network provider. 

The federal government currently pays about $30 a dose and then distributes the vaccine to the public for free. 

Pfizer in June signed a $3.2 billion deal with the Biden administration for 105 million doses.

Warren and Welch asked Bourla to answer questions by Jan. 9 about how much revenue and profit the company expects to bring in from the price hike as well what the difference would be if it kept the cost the same. 

“Pfizer has made past assurances that market pricing for a COVID-19 vaccine would be ‘unethical’ and would amount to ‘taking advantage of a situation.’ But that is exactly what the company is doing, and the impact of this price increase will fall hardest on the uninsured and underinsured,” Warren and Welch wrote.

A Pfizer spokeswoman acknowledged receipt of the letter, but would not comment further.

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