Moderna to price coronavirus vaccine higher than peers: Report

A slew of bilateral deals between governments and drugmakers to secure millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccines is putting at risk a World Health Organization co-led initiative to bulk-buy and equitably distribute the pandemic vaccines around the world
Moderna's headquarters in Massachusetts in the US. The biotechnology firm's proposed price for its coronavirus vaccine would apply to the US and other high-income countries, according to a Financial Times report.
Moderna's headquarters in Massachusetts in the US. The biotechnology firm's proposed price for its coronavirus vaccine would apply to the US and other high-income countries, according to a Financial Times report.PHOTO: REUTERS

Proposed price may be at least $15 costlier than vaccine by Pfizer and BioNTech, it says

NEW YORK • Moderna is planning to price its coronavirus vaccine at US$50 to US$60 per course, at least US$11 (S$15) more than another vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech, the Financial Times has reported, citing unnamed sources.

Moderna's proposed price for a two-dose course sold to governments compares with US$39 for two doses under a deal that Pfizer and German partner BioNTech struck with the US government, according to the report on Tuesday.

Industry analysts said Pfizer and BioNTech's US$2 billion deal to cover 50 million patients, which is contingent on an approvable product, would likely pressure other manufacturers to set similar prices.

Moderna's proposed price would apply to the United States and other high-income countries, according to the report. A Moderna spokesman said the company was in discussions with governments about potential supply of the vaccine, called mRNA-1273, but did not provide any details on pricing "given the confidential nature of the discussions and contracts".

The final price for Moderna's Covid-19 vaccine has yet to be determined, said a person familiar with the discussions.

Pfizer, Moderna and Merck & Co have said they plan to sell their vaccines at a profit, while some drugmakers, including Johnson & Johnson, have announced plans to price their vaccines on a not-for-profit basis.

AstraZeneca agreed to provide the US with 300 million doses of its potential vaccine in exchange for US$1.2 billion in upfront funding, which works out to US$4 per dose.

The US government has provided Moderna with nearly US$1 billion in funding to support its research and development efforts for its potential Covid-19 vaccine.

The funding is part of Operation Warp Speed, an initiative by the Trump administration to hasten the production of an inoculation for Covid-19, which has so far killed around 660,000 people worldwide.

A study in the New England Journal of Medicine said on Tuesday that Moderna's Covid-19 vaccine induced a robust immune response and prevented the coronavirus from replicating in the noses and lungs of monkeys.

The fact that the vaccine prevented the virus from replicating in the nose is seen as particularly crucial in preventing it from being transmitted onwards to others.

A Moderna spokesman said the company was in discussions with governments about potential supply of the vaccine, called mRNA-1273, but did not provide any details on pricing "given the confidential nature of the discussions and contracts".

The same outcome did not occur when the University of Oxford's vaccine was tested on monkeys, though that vaccine did prevent the virus from entering the animals' lungs and making them very sick.

In the Moderna animal study, three groups of eight rhesus macaques received either a placebo or the vaccine at two different dose levels - 10 micrograms and 100 micrograms.

All vaccinated macaques produced high levels of neutralising antibodies that attack a part of the Sars-CoV-2 virus used to invade cells. Notably, monkeys receiving both dose levels produced these antibodies at levels higher than those found in humans who have recovered from Covid-19.

The authors reported that the vaccine also induced the production of a different immune cell known as T-cells that may have helped boost the overall response.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 30, 2020, with the headline 'Moderna to price virus vaccine higher than peers: Report'. Print Edition | Subscribe