Massive Public Investment Made COVID-19 Vaccines Possible

March 09, 2023

In a new study published in the BMJ, Dr. Hussain Lalani and a team of six other medical researchers document the massive extent to which the US public (through the federal government) financed the development, production, and purchase of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines. Through March 2022, the US government spent at least $2.7 billion to develop and produce these vaccines. As the researchers note this is a conservative estimate. 

In addition to these investments in research and development, the US government spent $29.2 billion through March 2022 to purchase the COVID-19 vaccines—at about $20.69 per dose on average, far in excess of estimated manufacturing costs of $1 to $3 per dose—bringing total public investment to $31.9 billion.

This new study comes as the US government’s COVID-19 vaccine supply is running out, and future distribution is set to shift to private companies. Despite costing only about $1 to $3 to manufacture, Moderna and Pfizer are considering pricing their vaccines at over $100 per dose.

The US public provided the financing and took on the risks needed to produce the COVID-19 vaccines. The public should also decide how to use the value its investments created. This should include ensuring that COVID-19 vaccinations remain free without creating new administrative or insurance barriers to access them, requiring Pfizer and Moderna to freely share the know-how required to make their COVID-19 vaccines with others around the world, and building public options to manufacture vaccines and other critical health technologies.

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