Modern CEO Stéphane Bancel is due to testify before the Senate Health Committee in March about the company’s price for its Covid-19 vaccine if the shots are sold on the private market.
Senator Bernie Sanders, chair of the health panel, confirmed in a statement Wednesday that Bancel would appear at a hearing titled, “Taxpayers paid billions for it: so why would Moderna consider quadrupling the price of the COVID vaccine?” “
Bancel will testify at 10 a.m. ET on March 22nd.
Moderna’s CEO caused controversy last month when he said the company could raise the price of the syringes to between $110 and $130 per dose, well above the $26 the US government is paying for the Omicron boosters. Sanders sent a letter to the CEO calling the proposed price increase “outrageous.”
Moderna said in a statement Wednesday it would be making the vaccines available to the uninsured free of charge as part of a patient assistance program.
“For uninsured or underinsured individuals, Moderna’s patient assistance program will provide COVID-19 vaccines at no cost,” the company said.
In a letter to Bancel last month, Sanders criticized the proposed price hike as “outrageous” because the vaccine was being developed in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health using taxpayers’ money.
“I find your decision particularly offensive given that the vaccine was co-developed in partnership with scientists at the National Institutes of Health, a U.S. government agency funded by U.S. taxpayers,” Sanders wrote to Bancel.
Sanders said raising the price of vaccines would negatively impact Medicare and Medicaid budgets and increase private health insurance premiums, but he said the uninsured would feel the biggest impact.
“Perhaps most importantly, quadrupling prices will make the vaccine inaccessible to millions of uninsured and underinsured Americans who cannot afford it,” Sanders said. “How many of these Americans will die from Covid-19 because of limited access to these life-saving vaccines?”
Bancel has sold more than $400 million worth of company stock from the start of the pandemic through March 2022. The Covid vaccine is Moderna’s only commercially available product at this time.
The federal government has guaranteed free Covid vaccines to everyone in the country regardless of insurance status since vaccinations were introduced in December 2020. Vaccines remain free for people who have Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance under the Affordable Care Act even after the federal law The Covid vaccination program ends.
The US still has 120 million Omicron boosters that have not been used. The uninsured will still have free access to these recordings, but it’s unclear how long the supply will last.
If the federal supply runs out, uninsured adults may have to pay full price for the shots. The White House has said it is developing plans to help.
There is a free government immunization program for children whose families or caregivers cannot afford the immunizations.