United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Senator-elect Peter Welch (D-Vt.) sent a letter to Pfizer CEO Albert Bourlas, criticizing Pfizer plans to dramatically increase prices for its COVID-19 vaccine in the new year, which would make it more difficult for millions of Americans to afford the vaccine. The Senators sought information from Pfizer about the justification for the price increase, and the impact of this price increase on Americans forced to pay high out-of-pocket costs for the vaccine.
“Pfizer is already raking in billions in profits through the sales of their COVID-19 vaccines,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren. “Everyone deserves easy and affordable access to these lifesaving vaccines and I’m urging Pfizer to reverse this planned price hike and put public health ahead of corporate greed.”
“Here we go again. Throughout the pandemic, Pfizer promised to put public health before their bottom line. But not anymore. Pfizer’s planned price hike would break that promise and once again put a lifesaving medication out-of-reach for many Americans,” said Senator-Elect Peter Welch. “I urge Pfizer to meet its past commitments to vaccine equity and scrap this brutal price hike.”
In November 2022, Pfizer announced plans to quadruple the cost of its COVID-19 vaccine increasing it to $130 per dose. This price increase would likely put the vaccine out of reach for many uninsured or under-insured Americans, while the U.S. is still in a public health emergency from the pandemic, and despite the fact that billions of federal dollars were used to support production and delivery of the vaccine.
“Although Pfizer has pointed to its Patient Assistance Programs to help cover the cost of the drug for those without insurance, it is unclear how these will work or whether they will actually close the cost gap for the uninsured Americans who cannot afford the life-saving vaccine,” wrote the lawmakers.
The pharmaceutical giant stands to bring in an additional $2.5 to $3 billion in annual revenue with this planned price hike. This comes after the company raked in billions throughout the pandemic, including a $1.95 billion advance purchase agreement under Operation Ward Speed and predicted profits of around $4 billion from the vaccine in 2021 alone.
“Pfizer has made past assurances that market pricing for a COVID-19 vaccine would be ‘unethical’ and would amount to ‘taking advantage of a situation,’” wrote the lawmakers. “But that is exactly what the company is doing, and the impact of this price increase will fall hardest on the uninsured and underinsured, who could be forced to pay the full cost of the vaccine – likely putting it out of reach for many, and creating deadly risks as the pandemic continues to kill hundreds per day in the United States.”
The lawmakers are requesting information from Pfizer regarding the company’s pricing plans no later than January 9, 2023, and urging Pfizer to rethink their “unseemly” price hikes to “ensure COVID-19 vaccines are reasonably priced and accessible to people across the United States.”
Senator Warren has long fought to ensure that that the COVID-19 vaccine is accessible and affordable for everyone:
• In July 2021, Senator Warren, Rep. Jayapal (D-Wash.), and their colleagues called on Congress to provide $34 billion for global vaccine manufacturing in the reconciliation package. She also called on Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson to expand global vaccine access.
• In June 2021, Senator Warren sent a letter with Senator Murphy (D-Conn.), and Representatives Porter (D-Calif.) and Pocan (D-Wis.) to Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, raising concerns over Pfizer executives’ statements earlier this year indicating the company would significantly raise the price of its COVID-19 vaccine, BNT162b2, once the pandemic subsides.
• In April 2021, Senator Warren, along with Senators Markey (D-Mass.), Baldwin (D-Wis.), Merkley (D-Ore.), and Murphy (D-Conn.) sent letters to Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson requesting information on their plans to expand access to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccines and vaccine manufacturing capacity across the globe.