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The coronavirus vaccine will cost hundreds of millions of dollars to make—here’s why

how much will the coronavirus vaccine cost
Photo via Naval Surface Warriors/Flickr (CC BY SA 2.0)

As more than two dozen groups developing a COVID-19 vaccine reach the clinical trial stage, experts remain hopeful that the world could see a vaccine by early 2021. Creating and disseminating millions of vaccines will be no small feat, and it will surely cost a pretty penny—and people want to know who is expected to foot the bill. In essence, how much will the coronavirus vaccine cost?

John Lewis, CEO of biotech company Entos Pharmaceuticals, told Marketplace that the minimum development of a vaccine costs $150 million to cover just basic research and clinical trials. Lewis said the cost goes up from there depending on how the vaccine is made, what kind of manufacturing and packaging it will need, and whether the researchers are lucky. 

According to Reuters, Pfizer, an organization working on a COVID-19 vaccine, said its costs could run as high as $1 billion for its vaccine. Meanwhile, USA Today reported that the federal government is earmarking $9 billion for various vaccine candidates and another $2.5 billion for vials and syringes.

On Aug. 12, it was reported that Moderna Inc., which is also developing a vaccine called mRNA-1273, agreed to a $1.5 billion supply deal with the U.S. that calls for the company to provide 100 million doses. It would potentially cost consumers about $30 for a two-dose vaccine. About a week later, AstraZeneca, a U.K.-based drug company, announced it had made a deal with Australia to provide every citizen in that country the vaccine for free (citizens of Japan also might get their vaccines for free, as will citizens of the Philippines, thanks to Russia). The U.S. already has an agreement with AstraZeneca for 300 million doses.

On Sept. 16, U.S. officials said they hoped they could provide a vaccine for free and within 24 hours after it’s approved. But even if Americans don’t have to pay money at the time they get a vaccine, Salon writes that they’ve already paid, noting, “Not only have you paid for this future vaccine, you have also paid billions for the research that went into discovering that vaccine. The pharmaceutical companies that accepted all that free money to do that research are going to make millions off your investment. You’ll get a jab in the arm.”

As of late October, U.S. states still weren’t sure how they were going to pay for the vaccine.

Bruce Y. Lee, health policy and management professor at the City University of New York, told Marketplace the cost of a vaccine would ultimately be decided by insurers, vaccine makers, and the government. 

“They’ll present the data and say, ‘Look, this is why we need to charge this much, this is why you should bring the price down, this is why we aren’t gonna cover it or we are gonna cover it,'” Lee said. 

Marketplace reports the cost could vary depending on the vaccine if scientists develop multiple vaccines. The price would change depending on the vaccine’s efficacy rate, or how effective it is at preventing the virus. 

It could also depend on where you live in the world.

“You see a spectrum of prices,” Jason Schwartz, assistant professor of health policy at Yale, told Marketplace. “A vaccine that costs $200 a dose in the U.S. might cost $3 or $4 a dose in the 50 or 60 lowest-income countries in the world.”

For now, with a vaccine still not going to be available by late November at the earliest, it’s unclear how much people will be paying for it.

Read more on the coronavirus vaccine:

Sources: USA Today, Marketplace, Reuters


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