The European Union appears to have paid less than the US for some of the coronavirus vaccines it backed up. This is evident from sensitive pricing data published in what appears to be an error.
A Belgian minister published a Twitter post late Thursday with prices that the European Union had negotiated to pay pharmaceutical companies for coronavirus vaccines.
The prices have been kept secret by the European Commission, the bloc's executive branch, which is negotiating on behalf of its 27 member states and ordering cans for the 410 million people who live in the vast region where cases have soared.
European nations tend to pay much lower prices for most drugs than patients in the United States. But the coronavirus vaccines are unusual because the US government has negotiated prices and agreed to buy doses directly for every American, unlike most drugs where the US government has a limited role and individual insurance companies negotiate with drug manufacturers .
The higher US price could be due to a less aggressive negotiating stance by American officials eager to encourage multiple drug companies to invest in vaccine development – and a desire to put the US first when it becomes available are. These financial incentives seem to have worked: no vaccine has ever been developed so quickly before.
The new information was released days before the European Union is expected to approve the first vaccine across the region, which will spark an ambitious and logistically challenging vaccination campaign.
The price list briefly published by Belgian State Secretary Eva De Bleeker showed that the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine, which is due for approval in the block on Monday and will be administered in the USA and Great Britain, will cost 12 euros. or $ 14.7 per dose, bringing the cost per person to EUR 24 as each person is supposed to receive two doses.
This is significantly lower than the company's official price, which was announced at $ 19.5 per dose. This has also paid the US government. The Pfizer vaccine launch began this week in the United States.
The Moderna vaccine, which is the next for E.U. The January 6 approval and the anticipated Friday emergency approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will cost the E.U. $ 18 per dose, the table showed. The company announced it would charge $ 25 to $ 37 per dose.
Eric Mamer, a spokesman for the European Commission, declined to comment on the price list as the negotiated agreements were "confidential" but did not dispute the pricing.
Answers to your vaccine questions
With a coronavirus vaccine spreading out of the US, here are answers to some questions you may be wondering about:
- If I live in the US, when can I get the vaccine? While the exact order of vaccine recipients may vary from state to state, most doctors and residents of long-term care facilities will come first. If you want to understand how this decision is made, this article will help.
- When can I get back to normal life after the vaccination? Life will only get back to normal once society as a whole receives adequate protection against the coronavirus. Once countries approve a vaccine, they can only vaccinate a few percent of their citizens in the first few months. The unvaccinated majority remain susceptible to infection. A growing number of coronavirus vaccines show robust protection against disease. However, it is also possible for people to spread the virus without knowing they are infected because they have mild or no symptoms. Scientists don't yet know whether the vaccines will also block the transmission of the coronavirus. Even vaccinated people have to wear masks for the time being, avoid the crowds indoors and so on. Once enough people are vaccinated, it becomes very difficult for the coronavirus to find people at risk to become infected. Depending on how quickly we as a society achieve this goal, life could approach a normal state in autumn 2021.
- Do I still have to wear a mask after the vaccination? Yeah, but not forever. Here's why. The coronavirus vaccines are injected deep into the muscles and stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies. This seems to be sufficient protection to prevent the vaccinated person from getting sick. However, it is unclear whether the virus can bloom and sneeze or exhale in the nose to infect others, even if antibodies have been mobilized elsewhere in the body to prevent the vaccinated person from getting sick. The vaccine clinical trials were designed to determine if people who were vaccinated are protected from disease – not to find out if they can still spread the coronavirus. Based on studies of flu vaccines and even patients infected with Covid-19, researchers have reason to hope that vaccinated people won't spread the virus, but more research is needed. In the meantime, everyone – including those who have been vaccinated – must imagine themselves as possible silent shakers and continue to wear a mask. Read more here.
- Will it hurt What are the side effects? The vaccine against Pfizer and BioNTech, like other typical vaccines, is delivered as a shot in the arm. The injection in your arm feels no different than any other vaccine, but the rate of short-lived side effects seems to be higher than with the flu shot. Tens of thousands of people have already received the vaccines, and none of them have reported serious health problems. The side effects, which can be similar to symptoms of Covid-19, last about a day and are more likely to occur after the second dose. Early reports from vaccine trials suggest that some people may need to take a day off because they feel lousy after receiving the second dose. In the Pfizer study, around half developed fatigue. Other side effects occurred in at least 25 to 33 percent of patients, sometimes more, including headache, chills, and muscle pain. While these experiences are not pleasant, they are a good sign that your own immune system is having a strong response to the vaccine that provides lasting immunity.
- Will mRNA vaccines change my genes? No. Moderna and Pfizer vaccines use a genetic molecule to boost the immune system. This molecule, known as mRNA, is eventually destroyed by the body. The mRNA is packaged in an oily bubble that can fuse with a cell, allowing the molecule to slide inside. The cell uses the mRNA to make proteins from the coronavirus that can stimulate the immune system. At any given moment, each of our cells can contain hundreds of thousands of mRNA molecules that they produce to make their own proteins. As soon as these proteins are made, our cells use special enzymes to break down the mRNA. The mRNA molecules that our cells make can only survive a few minutes. The mRNA in vaccines is engineered to withstand the cell's enzymes a little longer, so the cells can make extra viral proteins and trigger a stronger immune response. However, the mRNA can hold for a few days at most before it is destroyed.
A spokeswoman for Ms De Bleeker said she tweeted the details to settle a political debate in Belgium in which opposition officials accuse the government of not providing enough money to buy the vaccines.
"We tried to be transparent, but it seems like we are a little too transparent," said spokesman Bavo De Mol.
Several health economists have found that the price of the vaccine itself – even if the US is paying more than Europe – is trivial compared to the economic cost of an ongoing pandemic. Just this week, Congress is preparing to approve payments of $ 600 to each American adult to cushion the blow of the pandemic-sparked recession, far more than the $ 39 per person required are to vaccinate adults at the higher Pfizer price.
"The cost of overpayment is so small in relation to the potential counterfactual factors," said Benedic Ippolito, an American Enterprise Institute-based researcher who studies drug prices. "It's like a shrug when our price is a little higher. This is a one-off pandemic and we will look at the drug price situation later."
But now that it's public, the price discrepancy can affect negotiations on future batches of vaccine.
Keeping European prices secret was part of the negotiations, E.U. Officials said, despite acknowledging that the demands for transparency regarding the vaccine deals were legitimate.
"We would not have had these contracts if we had not inserted the confidentiality clause," said Mamer. “It is a relevant debate, we are not questioning this. This was part of the process of entering into these contracts and we are not in a position to change that now, ”he added.
The European Union has ordered more vaccines from most suppliers than in the US, partly because the bloc's total population is larger. For example, in the case of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine, the E.U. secured 200 million vaccines with the option to use the same deal for more across the board.
Other prices on the list published by the Belgian minister were 1.78 euros per dose for the AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine; $ 8.50 per dose for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine; 7.56 euros for the Sanofi / GlaxoSmithKline; and 10 euros for the Curevac. Some of these vaccines are lagging behind in development and their pre-purchase agreements may never activate or may take much longer. the contract of E.U. Those signed with them only become active if their vaccines work.
With the approval of the E.U. In order to conclude a comprehensive agreement on behalf of its 27 member states, the governments have combined the negotiating capital and clout as a bloc, according to the bloc's leadership.
Provided the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine is approved on Monday, the E.U. plans to ship the first batch of vaccines to each member's capitals on December 26th and begin vaccination across the bloc immediately thereafter.
Matina Stevis-Gridneff reported from Brussels; Margot Sanger-Katz reported from Washington.