5 key takeaways from Tuesday's big coronavirus vaccine hearing

2 min

11 shares, 71 points
5 key takeaways from Tuesday's big coronavirus vaccine hearing

Democrats are worried about price.

Multiple Democrats asked for assurances that the eventual shots would be affordable, pointing to the hundreds of millions of dollars — if not billions — that all the manufacturers who testified, save Pfizer, have received from the federal government.

AstraZeneca’s $ 1.2 billion deal to give the U.S. 300 million doses this fall means that they are selling their shots at no profit, said Mene Pangalos, executive vice president. Gerberding and Moderna President Stephen Hoge said they would not sell their products at cost; J&J and Pfizer representatives said they would be not-for-profit and otherwise priced responsibly during the pandemic.

It is unclear where the no-profit promises run out, particularly with the caveat that those prices are tied to the pandemic. The vague language has fed skepticism among lawmakers and pricing advocates.

… and Republicans are worried about ties to China.

Several Republicans including Reps. Buddy Carter and Markwayne Mullin grilled the executives about their domestic production capabilities and whether any of their materials came from China. While all five promised that U.S. doses will be made onshore, they were fuzzier about where raw materials would come from.

Moderna’s supply chain includes a number of imported raw ingredients, Hoge said. China may be included “but I don’t believe it’s a major component,” he added.

Other executives said they needed to check on the details of their supply chains, which include everything from basic ingredients to glass vials and stoppers.

Chinese facilities account for 13 percent of raw material suppliers for U.S. drugs, according to a government watchdog report last year.

The manufacturers are not concerned about Trump pressure.

Vaccine makers say President Donald Trump’s repeated promises of a vaccine by the end of the year are not swaying them to make hasty decisions or lower their standards.

“This is going to be a vaccine that is going to be used globally, so every regulatory authority is going to have a view on the safety and efficacy of our vaccine,” Pangalos said.

Gerberding said she was “relieved” to see guidance from the Food and Drug Administration that included specific expectations for vaccine approval — including an expectation that they be effective in at least 50 percent of patients.

None of the executives would commit to having an approved vaccine readily available to all Americans this year.

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