CDC director: ‘I worry about the day where the vaccine will no longer be free’

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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said in an interview Thursday that she is concerned there could come a day when the coronavirus vaccine comes at a cost to patients.

“I worry about the day where the vaccine will no longer be free,” Walensky told The 19th as the Biden administration forges ahead with its inoculation program.

“What about all those people? What about if we need a third booster? What happens then, who’s going to pay for that?” she asked.

COVID-19 vaccines have been purchased with taxpayer dollars by the federal government and given out for free in order to get as many vaccinated as possible. 

Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca, whose vaccine is not yet approved for use in the U.S., have both said they will not make a profit off their vaccines and are selling it at the cost it takes to make.

President Biden announced Wednesday that the federal government has purchased an additional 100 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

However, Pfizer, which makes the first vaccine used in America, did not make a commitment to sell their vaccines at no cost.

“We recognize that these are extraordinary times, and our pricing will reflect that during the term of the pandemic,” Pfizer Chief Business Officer John Young told lawmakers during the summer.

The company said in February that they plan on raising the prices of their vaccine after the crisis of the pandemic has subsided.

Pfizer is currently selling their vaccines at almost $20 a dose when their normal cost can range from $150 to $175, according to Chief Financial Officer Frank D’Amelio, Fierce Pharma reported last month. He said they are “going to get more on price” after the pandemic. 

“So I think there are extraordinary number of questions that are going to be associated with how this pandemic is going to be paid for, how the future of health care is going to be paid for, how the future of public health care is going to be paid for, because we are a product of the fact that we did not invest in that,” Walensky said.

There has been no indication from the government that the vaccines will stop being free to the public anytime soon.

Tags AstraZeneca CDC coronavirus vaccine Fierce Pharma Joe Biden Pfizer Rochelle Walensky

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