As the race for a COVID-19 vaccine nears its final lap with multiple phase 3 trials underway, the primary question has shifted from whether we will have a working vaccine at all to how much one (or more of them) will cost.
The good news is that it probably won’t be as outrageous as most medical innovations wind up costing in the U.S. when first released. Given the unusual circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic, the federal government is expected to pay for the development of the first available COVID-19 vaccine, and most vaccine developers have promised to sell their products on a not-for-profit basis. Still, prices vary greatly among pharmaceutical companies that have disclosed pricing information.
Below is a price comparison of the most promising COVID-19 vaccine candidates, all expected to complete large-scale human trials and clear regulatory hurdles by early next year.
Moderna: $32 to $37 per dose (for some customers)
In its second-quarter earnings release Wednesday morning, Moderna revealed that its mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine candidate, mRNA-1273, will cost between $32 to $37 per dose “for some customers.”
The Boston-based company is currently in discussion with the U.S. government to provide larger volumes at a lower per-dose price, CEO Stephane Bancel told investors in a call on Wednesday. He said Moderna is also in talks with other countries to supply the vaccine and has received about $400 million in deposits as of July 31.
Moderna has received nearly $1 billion from the federal Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), an office under the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), to fund its vaccine development.
Johnson & Johnson: $10 per dose
Also on Wednesday, Johnson & Johnson announced that its subsidiary, Janssen Pharmaceutica, has entered an agreement with the U.S. government to supply its experimental COVID-19 vaccine, Ad26.COV2.S, joining a string of pharma giants that have signed similar deals.
Under the agreement, Johnson & Johnson will manufacture 100 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine in the U.S. for $1 billion as soon as it clears the FDA’s emergency use approval. That averages about $10 per dose, which is the cheapest among vaccine candidates on BARDA’s purchase list.
Pfizer: $19.50 per dose
Last month, Pfizer and its German vaccine partner, BioNTech, entered a contract with BARDA to provide 100 million doses of their mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine, BNT162, for $1.95 billion, or $19.50 per dose, by the end of this year.
The contract also includes a government pledge to purchase another 500 million doses next year, possibly at a lower price.
Novavax: $16 per dose
Maryland-based biotech startup Novavax signed a similar government deal in early July, agreeing to produce 100 million doses of its experimental COVID-19 vaccine for $1.6 billion by early 2021. That works out about $16 per dose.
AstraZeneca: “A few dollars” per dose
British pharma giant AstraZeneca said at its quarterly earnings release on July 30 that its COVID-19 vaccine AZD1222 might cost “just a few dollars per dose.”
If true, AstraZeneca will be a clear winner in the vaccine “price war.” But nothing is definite just yet. AstraZeneca recently signed a $1.2 billion agreement with the U.S. government to produce up to 300 million doses of the vaccine. But the funding will support both the vaccine’s phase 3 trials and manufacturing, so per dose cost isn’t clear.