Moderna to Offer Free COVID-19 Vaccine for Uninsured

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The U.S. public health emergency response to COVID-19 ends May 11, 2023, and the transition to more traditional healthcare coverage will begin later this year.

While Moderna plans to charge insured individuals for its mRNA COVID-19 vaccine when government coverage ends in May, the pharmaceutical manufacturer will continue to provide it for free to uninsured people.

The public health emergency ends May 11, 2023, and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has said the federal government has not received additional funds from Congress to continue to purchase more vaccines and treatments. However, Moderna “remains committed to ensuring that people in the United States will have access to our COVID-19 vaccines regardless of ability to pay,” Moderna said in a statement.

When the public health emergency ends, Moderna plans to charge between $110 and $130 per dose for the vaccine, the company’s chief executive officer, Stéphane Bancel recently told The Wall Street Journal. The price increase would go into effect when the government’s current supply of Moderna COVID-19 vaccines gets used up or expires, per Forbes.

Related: KFF: COVID-19 Vaccine Costs to Rise if Federal Purchasing Ends

Pfizer and Moderna estimated that the anticipated commercial price per dose of their vaccines would likely be between $82 and $130 per dose — roughly three to four times what the federal government has paid, according to a December 2022 analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Moderna did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Kevin Marcaida

Kevin Marcaida

“Given that pandemic pressures are easing, we forecast that total COVID-19 vaccine sales will drop over time due to the end of government vaccination programs and the transition toward a traditional commercial model,” Kevin Marcaida, pharma analyst at GlobalData, told Formulary Watch. “This means that as demand declines, manufacturers such as Moderna can afford to give out free vaccines to a relatively small demographic without comprising too much on sales.”

Because Moderna has only offered free access to U.S. citizens that are uninsured — around 30 million people — the pharma maker will “still continue to generate revenue from patients indirectly, through patients paying their insurance premiums, which will then flow through the value chain and eventually back to the manufacturer,” Marcaida said.

In addition, If Moderna chooses to increase its Spikevax prices to $110 to $130 for insured Americans as reported, “then this will likely offset any potential sales losses,” Marcaida noted.

Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine sales netted about $18.4 billion in 2022, the company said. The company is expecting a minimum of $5 billion in COVID-19 vaccines sales in 2023 from advance purchase agreements and 2022 contract deferrals. The pharma maker also has potential additional contracts in the United States, Europe, Japan, and other key markets.

To date, the federal government has spent more than $30 billion on COVID-19 vaccines to ensure that the public can access them at no charge, KFF found. If the federal government stops covering the costs of the vaccinations, the total cost for purchasing booster shots commercially would be between $6.2 billion and $29.7 billion annually. These costs are likely to be covered by both public and private vaccine payers, and could lead to premium increases, finds KFF.

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