Moderna sizes up private COVID vaccine market in US, where shots could cost $100 a pop

Moderna has floated the pivot to an endemic COVID-19 vaccine market for months, always keeping pricing prophecies vague. But late last week, the mRNA specialist offered a prospective glimpse at coronavirus shots’ collective commercial opportunity in the U.S.

Assuming half of the U.S. adult population of about 258 million people receives an annual booster, Moderna and Pfizer could be looking at a private vaccine market worth about $12.9 billion annually. That assumption hinges (PDF) on a potential shot price tag of $100.

Moderna pointed out the flu vaccine coverage ratio in all adults in the U.S. is about 50%, while flu vaccination rates are “generally lower” in other high-income countries.

The biotech also laid out scenarios based on COVID shot prices at $82 and $64, which would unlock potential U.S. private markets worth about $10.6 billion and $8.3 billion, respectively.

Looking at just the high-risk population in the U.S., which Moderna figures stands at around 82 million people, a $100 vaccine price tag could yield collective sales of $8.2 billion.

While a $100 price tag—or even a $64 sticker—would be much more than the $15 to $16.50 Moderna reportedly charged the U.S. for each COVID-19 shot at pandemic prices, according to The New York Times, even Moderna’s high-end cost estimate generally aligns with the prices of other vaccines in the U.S.

Popping over to CVS Minute Clinic’s menu of prophylactic offerings, a measles, mumps and rubella shot runs for $135 before discounts. A standard seasonal flu vaccine, meanwhile, costs $50, while quadrivalent or high-dose offerings cost $95.

The range of prices Moderna outlined also match the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' 2023 projections, which include an estimate for an average cost of $64 per COVID-19 vaccine, plus a $40 administration charge.

Moderna didn’t specify an intended commercial price for its mRNA vaccine SpikeVax at its annual R&D event.

“[A]s we head to the commercial market, we’ll be looking at a more value-based pricing,” the biotech’s chief commercial officer, Arpa Garay, told investors Thursday, as quoted by Endpoints News.

The Moderna CCO predicted the COVID vaccine market will start reflecting the flu shot market, with a high likelihood that COVID boosters become an annual affair. Garay also predicted that private COVID-19 vaccine contracts will begin to be inked early in the year, similar to the dynamic around influenza.

After clinching a $1.74 billion deal with the U.S. government for 66 million fall and winter Spikevax doses in August, Moderna last month echoed its $21 billion sales estimate for the full year.

In 2021, Moderna sold 807 million doses of its vaccine, racking up full-year product sales of $17.7 billion. All told, the biotech’s revenue clocked in at $18.5 billion, a monumental increase over the $803 million Moderna pulled down back in 2020.

Both Pfizer and Moderna have been sizing up the commercial opportunities for their shots for some time.

Back in March, Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said his company was “getting ready for a private market situation.”

“We were always planning this would happen, so the commercial team is spending a lot of time with [pharmacy benefit managers] and pharmacy chains,” the helmsman added.

Meanwhile, Moderna’s chief rival Pfizer figures it can be “more competitive” in a commercial setting, where its skills are “even better suited” to the open market, Pfizer chief Albert Bourla, Ph.D., said during a July investor call.