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Pfizer sees ‘opportunity’ to hike price for COVID vaccine

Pfizer is looking to turn its lucrative coronavirus vaccine into an even bigger cash cow.

The drugmaker sees a “significant opportunity” to charge more for the groundbreaking shot once it gets to the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic, one top executive says.

Pfizer set the current prices for the vaccine it developed with its German partner, BioNTech, based on the need for governments to secure doses and get the virus under control, according to chief financial officer Frank D’Amelio.

For instance, Pfizer is charging the US government $19.50 per dose — well below the $150 or $175 per dose it typically pulls in for a vaccine, D’Amelio said on the company’s February earnings call.

But “normal market conditions will start to kick in” as the global pandemic shifts into an endemic, D’Amelio said last week.

He suggested that those less-urgent conditions could play to Pfizer’s advantage given that its shot is 95 percent effective, the highest rate among the three vaccines currently cleared for use in the US.

Healthcare workers prepare doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine Manning High School in Manning, South Carolina.
Healthcare workers prepare doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine Manning High School in Manning, South Carolina.
Micah Green/Bloomberg via Getty Images

“Factors like efficacy, booster ability, clinical utility will basically become very important, and we view that as, quite frankly, a significant opportunity for our vaccine from a demand perspective, from a pricing perspective, given the clinical profile of our vaccine,” D’Amelio said Thursday during the Barclays Global Healthcare Conference.

The Manhattan-based pharma giant already expects to rake in about $15 billion in sales this year from the two-dose COVID vaccine with a profit margin of more than 20 percent of the shot’s total revenues.

Those profits could get even larger once Pfizer gets out of the “pandemic-pricing environment,” D’Amelio told investors last month.

“Obviously, we’re going to get more on price,” he said on Pfizer’s earnings call. “And clearly … the more volume we put through our factories, the lower unit cost will become.”

Pfizer also thinks it’s “becoming increasingly likely” that people will need an annual booster shot to ward off the COVID-19 variants that have emerged around the world, according to D’Amelio.

Pfizer has launched a study of a third vaccine dose to address the variants.

“We don’t see this as a onetime event, but we see this as something that’s going to continue for the foreseeable future,” D’Amelio said.

Pfizer did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment Tuesday. The company’s shares climbed about 0.6 percent to $35.62 as of 10:16 a.m.


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