For over two years now, the US government has purchased all of the covid vaccines administered in the country, in what has become the largest public vaccination campaign in American history.
Those purchases have included more than 500 million doses from Pfizer. The first 100 million cost around $20 a dose, thanks to an earlier agreement in which the US government invested $1.95 billion in vaccine production. The remaining doses were bought for around $30 each.
But once the US government supplies run out (likely in the first quarter of 2023) and covid vaccines and therapeutics are moved onto commercial health platforms, Pfizer is able to hike up the price of its shots.
The company announced on Oct. 20 that it intends to sell the covid vaccine, marketed under the brand name Comirnaty, for $110 to $130 per dose.
This is about four times the current selling price—and 100 times the estimated cost of manufacturing the vaccine.
According to The People’s Vaccine Alliance, a coalition of over 100 organizations working to end vaccine inequity, Pfizer spends less than $1.20 to produce each dose of vaccine. This estimate was drawn from an analysis conducted by international nonprofit Oxfam, based on data from consumer advocacy Public Citizen and the Imperial College, London.
Pfizer has not challenged the estimate, which would imply that the 2023 price represents a 10,000% markup over the manufacturing cost. But the company did provide an explanation for the price hike.
“There are key differences between an emergency and traditional model that increase the costs of making and distributing the COVID-19 vaccine,” Pfizer told Quartz via email. These costs, the company says, include distributing through multiple channels and payers instead of one, as well as producing the doses in single vials, which can be up to three times more expensive and run into higher transportation costs.
Pfizer also says it is the company’s expectation that most privately insured patients will continue not to face out-of-pocket costs for the vaccine, and that it will provide financial assistance to uninsured patients so they can continue to receive the vaccine for free.