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Belgian minister tweets EU's Covid vaccine price list to anger of manufacturers

by Staff reporter
17 Jan 2021 at 20:05hrs | Views
A Belgian minister has blown the lid off a sensitive and commercial secret – the price that the EU has agreed to pay for the leading Covid vaccines.

Belgium's budget state secretary, Eva De Bleeker, posted the price list on Twitter, with the amounts of each vaccine that her country intends to buy from the EU. The tweet was quickly deleted, but not soon enough to prevent interested parties taking screenshots, which have now made it public knowledge.

While campaigners for access to medicines were delighted at the transparency, pharmaceutical companies were not. Pfizer complained of a breach of confidentiality. "These prices are covered by a confidentiality clause in the contract with the European commission," said Elisabeth Schraepen, the US drugmaker's spokeswoman for the Benelux region to the Belgian daily Le Soir.

The price list revealed that the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is the cheapest and Moderna is the most expensive – as was already known. But the details allow countries that may be negotiating with the vaccine manufacturers to take a harder line.

This is the list of what the EU is paying:

Oxford/AstraZeneca: €1.78 (£1.61).
Johnson & Johnson: $8.50 (£6.30).
Sanofi/GSK: €7.56.
Pfizer/BioNTech: €12.
CureVac: €10.
Moderna: $18.

Every country in the world has an interest in mass vaccination against Covid and there is a big effort to put together a programme to ensure all countries can access enough to vaccinate the vulnerable. But drug and vaccine prices have always been very closely guarded commercial secrets.

"We can't say anything about this case, everything about vaccines and prices are covered by confidentiality clauses, in the interests of society and also in the interests of negotiations ongoing," said a spokesman for the European commission at a news briefing.

Belgium is buying more than 33m vaccines for a total of €279m (£253m).

The UK, which is not part of the EU scheme, has secured 357m doses of seven different vaccines, including 40m doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech, which was authorised for use in the UK before the rest of the world. It also has 100m doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

A spokesperson for the British government said: "The cost of each vaccine secured by the government was negotiated on a case-by-case basis and was assessed to ensure value for money, while giving the UK the best chance of rapidly obtaining and deploying a safe and effective vaccine."

The UK, like the EU, has paid a considerable amount of money up front to help in the development of a number of vaccines that may or may not work, including AstraZeneca's, so the final prices for those will be lower. However, it did not support Pfizer/BioNTech nor Moderna, so will be left with a high price tag for those vaccines.

The United States has paid higher prices than Europe. Bernstein Research, an analysis and investment firm, calculated that the EU has a 24% discount on the Pfizer vaccine compared with the United States. Part of the reason may be that Europe helped fund the original research by BioNTech.

The US will pay $4 a dose for the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine under development, compared with the EU price of €1.78, which is 45% cheaper, according to Bernstein.

At the other end of the scale, Moderna's vaccine, developed in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with $2.5bn of funding and orders from Operation Warp Speed, will cost 20% more on the European market – $18 a dose compared with $15 in the US.

Drugs and vaccines have traditionally been more expensive in the US because there is no cost-effectiveness mechanism – as there is in the UK and some other countries – to decide whether they are value for money. The free market operates and drugs are paid for by health insurance schemes.

Source - theguardian