Mar 7, 2021 - Health

Pfizer CEO: "It will be terrible" if COVID-19 vaccine prices limit access

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told "Axios on HBO" that it "will be terrible for society" if the price of coronavirus vaccines ever prohibits some people from taking them.

Why it matters: Widespread uptake of the vaccine — which might require annual booster shots — will reduce the risk of the virus continuing to spread and mutate, but it's unclear who will pay for future shots or how much they'll cost.

The big picture: Pfizer is using a tiered pricing structure for its COVID vaccine, with higher-income companies paying more for each shot.

  • The U.S. government is purchasing the vaccine directly from the company at $19.50 per dose. Americans then receive their shots for free.
  • Bourla said this is a pandemic price, not necessarily a long-term one.
  • "We will see if we go to the open market, maybe [then] we see vaccine prices much more closer to the current vaccines that exist for flu or for other diseases with these high-end technologies," he said.

Yes, but: Bourla also said people will likely have to get regular coronavirus vaccine boosters, perhaps annually, for at least the next decade.

  • That means long-term affordability will be critical.
  • "It will be terrible for society if price becomes an obstacle. I think we should never a situation like that, particularly for a vaccine," he said.

What he's saying: Bourla said he'd advise a family member to get any vaccine they can right now. But in the future, when vaccines are no longer scarce, he said that people should be able to choose which one they get.

  • After the summer, "for boosters or for other situations, there will be enough vaccine so that you can go to free choice," he said.

What we're watching: Bourla said the company can make new versions of its vaccine in response to new virus variants in 116 days, if necessary.

  • Pfizer is also studying the effect of a potential third shot of the same vaccine, which may create an immune response strong enough to protect people even against the most aggressive variants.
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