COVID vaccine makers should price their updated shots for the fall at a reasonable rate that would reflect the benefits they received through government investments, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said on Thursday.
The U.S. government will also launch a $1 billion “Bridge Access Program” for this fall, to help those without insurance and the underinsured to continue getting vaccines and treatments at no cost.
The appeal from the HHS to the vaccine makers – Pfizer (PFE.N)/BioNTech (22UAy.DE), Moderna (MRNA.O) and Novavax (NVAX.O) – comes at a time when the United States is moving to a commercial marketplace for COVID products from government purchases in the early years of the pandemic.
The manufacturers are developing updated versions of their respective vaccines to target the currently circulating XBB.1.5 subvariant for this fall, based on the advice of U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last month.
Following approval of the updated shots from the FDA, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will make a recommendation for their use by late September.
Pfizer and Moderna completed their submission to the FDA for an updated shot in late June. Moderna said it expects to supply the shots in time for the fall campaign and Pfizer expects to ship doses immediately upon approval.
Novavax said it plans to file with the FDA in time to make its shot available by late September.
In a letter to the vaccine manufacturers, HHS said it expects them to prepare for an ample supply for the 2023-24 fall vaccination campaign, and remain prepared to support any potential surges in demand and evolving COVID situations.
While Moderna and Pfizer have not settled on a price, the companies are planning to target a range of commercial price of $110 to $130 a dose for their vaccines.
The CDC said the government program aims to help the estimated 25-30 million Americans without insurance, and additional adults whose insurance will not provide free coverage for COVID vaccines after the move to the commercial market.