As if we didn’t need more proof U.S. health agencies are entangled with pharmaceutical companies, Pfizer announced plans to quadruple the price of its COVID-19 vaccine — boosting revenue for years amid weaker-than-expected demand for its new booster shot.
Pfizer, which developed and sells the Pfizer/BioNTech and Comirnaty vaccines with German company BioNTech revealed during an earnings call with investors on Thursday that it will charge a private-market price between $110 and $130 per COVID vaccine dose for its “Comirnaty” vaccine.
The new price will take effect in 2023 — likely in the first quarter when the U.S. stockpile of COVID vaccines is expected to run out and a commercial model is implemented, Pfizer said.
The meeting took place just hours after the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) vaccine advisory panel unanimously voted to add experimental COVID-19 vaccines to the child and adolescent immunization schedule, which will undoubtedly force millions of children to receive the shots subject to the price increase.
The CDC’s new schedule will take effect during the first quarter of 2023 when Pfizer said it would be making a transition to a commercial model allowing it to increase its price per dose by 400%. How convenient.
In addition, thanks to the CDC, Pfizer will get to enjoy continued liability protection afforded to experimental products authorized during actual emergencies — so Pfizer can continue to make billions and injured Americans will continue to go without compensation.
Wells Fargo analyst Mohit Bansal said the new price point for the shot could add around $2.5 billion to $3 billion in annual revenue for Pfizer.
“This is much higher than our assumption of $50 per shot, and even assuming $80 per shot net price in high-income countries, we see $2 per share upside to our estimates” from the increased prices, Bansal stated.
Berenberg Capital Markets told Fierce Pharma it is “cautiously optimistic” about vaccine demand in 2023.
“While it will take time for the price and volume dynamic to play out in the market, we remain positive on the long-term revenue potential of the COVID-19 vaccine,” wrote Berenberg analyst Dr. Zhiqiang Shu.
Analysts said the move could lead to price increases among competitors like Moderna and Novavax. In fact, the mere expectations of a price hike sent stock shares among all three vaccine makers surging.
Since COVID-19 vaccines were authorized in the U.S., taxpayers have footed the bill to provide shots for free. The first agreement with Pfizer was for $19.50 per dose in 2020. The price increased a year later to $24 per dose and in June of this year, was increased to $30.48 per vaccine dose.
Pfizer justified the need for a 400% price increase because vaccines will be provided in single-dose vials as opposed to current multi-dose vials — a change the company said it is making due to “consumer preference.”
Although nobody has actually heard consumers complain about “multi-dose vials,” complaints have been made about the fact the “fully approved” Comirnaty vaccine isn’t available in the U.S.
Pfizer also listed its “50/50 gross profit split” with COVID vaccine partner BioNTech and the reinvestment costs as justifications for increasing its price.
Yet, Pfizer has been planning to move to a lucrative business model from the beginning. Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told analysts, big banks and investors during a February 2021 earnings call — not even two months after the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines — that the company could make significant profits by charging higher prices after the initial demand for COVID vaccines subsides and by implementing routine booster doses for new variants of the virus.
During the Barclays’ Global Health Conference that same month, former Pfizer CFO Frank D’Amelio said the company doesn’t see this as a one-time event, but “as something that’s going to continue for the foreseeable future.”
The People’s Vaccine Alliance, a global access vaccine group, called the price hike “daylight robbery.” Pfizer’s proposed price hike is more than a 10,000% markup over what experts have estimated it costs to produce the shots, it said.
The Wall Street Journal said price increases will allow manufacturers to meet revenue forecasts despite weak demand for the shots.