During a hearing held by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle lambasted the $130 price tag Moderna is planning to tack onto its updated bivalent booster shot, which currently goes for $26.
Taking into account the billions in federal funding that Moderna received to accelerate the development and testing of its vaccine, committee members interrogated Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel on what was going into the cost, how this would impact consumers and how continued affordable access to the medicine would be ensured.
“We are talking about a vaccine that taxpayers invested $12 billion in—a vaccine that was once $15—and you’re now planning to price at $130 despite the fact that it just costs about $3 to make,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said during the hearing, referring to the current cost of Moderna’s original COVID-19 vaccine.
Far from being a Democratic-led gripe with the company, GOP Sens. Roger Marshall (Kans.) and Mike Braun (Ind.) also used words like “outrageous” and “preposterous” to describe the price hike plans.
Throughout the hearing, Bancel seemed to stake a claim over the vaccine as something his company created with a modest contribution from the federal government.
The question over who deserves credit for the vaccine has long been going. Moderna recently relented on a patent dispute with the National Institutes of Health, agreeing to pay the federal agency royalties on its vaccine sales.
Multiple senators on Wednesday characterized the shot as a taxpayer-funded product, with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) demanding to know if Bancel could commit to the U.S. paying less than other countries for the shot, considering the government’s role in its development.
Bancel said he could not say that the U.S. would pay less than other countries.