2022-10-24| COVID-19

Pfizer to Raise COVID-19 Vaccine Prices Amidst Rising Flu Cases

by Reed Slater
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After the U.S. government announced it would no longer provide free COVID-19 vaccines to the public, Pfizer will raise its prices to about $110 to $130 per vaccine to maintain expected profit levels next year. Alongside the price hikes, the northern hemisphere is gearing up for the flu season, which may hit earlier and harder than in previous years. 

Related Article: Pfizer Pledges 6 million COVID-19 Treatment Courses to Global Fund

Making Up for Lost Government Contracts

According to Reuters, Pfizer executive Angela Lukin said the company plans to raise its COVID-19 vaccine prices because the U.S. government canceled its vaccine purchasing contract with the company next year. However, Lukin said she expects the vaccine to remain free to those with private and government health insurance. 

Now, the U.S. government pays about $30 per dose, making the eventual price hike around four times as much as the government pays. The government still has some vaccine supply in reserve, so the transfer to the private market will not occur until the supply depletes. 

Once the government supply ends, though, insured individuals will likely retain vaccine and COVID-19 treatment coverage, while the fate of uninsured individuals still hangs in the air. Children may be eligible for free vaccines through the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program. The CDC will decide the COVID-19 vaccine’s status in the VFC program later this month. Adults may be eligible for free vaccines through the Immunization Program, but the program is discretionary and has a limited supply. Other opportunities may include community health centers administering free vaccines, but they also have limited supplies. 

Along with concern for COVID-19 vaccine access in the future, the northern hemisphere is preparing for this year’s flu season, which may have a more substantial impact than in previous years.

What this Flu Season May Hold

As the cold weather starts to permeate the U.S., the country is looking to the southern hemisphere to analyze how the other half of the world faired with the flu in its inverted seasons. Australia’s winter saw a steady number of flu cases compared to prior years, but the cases spiked earlier in the year than usual. 

According to the Australian Government’s Department of Health, the most at-risk populations included younger people, with children aged five to 19 accounting for the highest rates of infections. Still, the agency assuredly stated that the impact of the flu throughout the season was low to moderate, with no marked increase in hospitalizations or deaths. 

The U.S. is gearing up for the flu season with data from the southern hemisphere. So far, the number of flu cases has risen steadily since September, an occurrence that usually takes place starting in October. Based on the available data, the CDC is encouraging eligible individuals to receive a flu vaccine to prevent hospitalization. 

Going into an uncertain flu season, the U.S. government will no longer provide free COVID-19 vaccines, so companies like Pfizer are changing their pricing models for their products to remain profitable. Even with a much higher price tag of $110 to $130 for Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, most Americans with private or government health insurance will retain access to free COVID-19 vaccines. Uninsured individuals may face a heavier burden as their future access to COVID-19 vaccines remains uncertain. 

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