Moderna Plans to Hike Its COVID Vax to $130 Per Jab

AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

As news has continued to break about the consequences some have experienced from getting vaccinated for COVID-19, many people who decided not to roll up their sleeves and take one, two, or three for the team are feeling vindicated. Of course, the narrative of the benefits of the vaccine continues to be part of the federal message.

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You may recall that last year, Dr. Jill Biden urged us all to make our holidays merry and bright by getting our booster and snuffling and coughing our way through the vaccine side effects. We could gather ’round the turkey and unwrap our presents by the fireside while waiting for our fevers to break. Even Martha Stewart of all people is on my podcast feed today hawking boosters to protect oneself from the variants. Vaccination. It’s a good thing.

Of course, there are those who endured and even savored the pandemic and still wear their masks as a badge of honor, if not intellectual superiority. A couple in a restaurant in our town made a great show of doing the mask dance while going to their table and getting up to use the restroom. They also made a point of loudly and snidely critiquing those who had moved on and were dining bare-faced, including me. Which is fine, really. If the masks give you some feeling of security, by all means, mask away. It’s your face, after all.

Now, there is the issue of price point. Moderna is planning to boost the price of a COVID shot to around $130 per jab. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the government had been paying Moderna $15 to $26 per dose so the public could get them for free. But, at least for now, the Biden administration is set to end the national emergency in May. When the government supply is gone, Moderna will up the price.

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Back in January, the company was mulling a price hike in the neighborhood of $110 to $130 for each dose, which was in line with what Pfizer was planning to charge. Moderna President Stephen Hoge said, “We tried to think very reasonably about the price of this, and I think we’ve landed on a price that is consistent with value.” Hoge explained that the actual cost could vary with the contracts with buyers, which include federal health programs, other providers, and pharmacies.

The Journal notes that Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Peter Welch (D-Vt.) have all reached out to Moderna. The main areas of concern are that the price tag could make it hard for some people to afford the jab and could result in higher costs for government health programs. Also at issue is the fact that the federal government footed the bill for Moderna to develop the vaccine. Hoge notes that in return, the company sold the vaccine to the feds at a lower price than Pfizer-BioNTech.

Hoge commented, “We feel we have honored the support we got and then paid it back and then some.” Regarding the sticker price and what consumers will pay, Hoge said that insurance should cover the costs and that there will be no out-of-pocket expenses. Moderna is also rolling out a plan to provide the vaccine free of charge to those who are underinsured or do not have insurance.

The article in The Journal states that Moderna’s Chief Executive Stéphane Bancel was slated to appear before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions on Wednesday to further explain the price hike, which should take effect this fall.

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Assuming that there are enough people who want a booster or even their first shot, the fact of the matter is that the price hikes by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech will have to be made up somewhere. The question is, will that be in insurance premiums, health care costs, or the federal budget? Or a combination of all of the above? Granted, the costs will not even make up a drop in the spending bucket, given the amount of money going out the door these days. But it will still end up costing the American people somewhere.

While the vaccinations have been helpful to some, evidence has emerged that they may have been harmful to others and, in some cases, completely unnecessary. But there is the vaccination bass line that is muted, but still playing in the background, and you may end up paying for the vaccines, whether you receive one or not.

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