Moderna says it will keep its COVID-19 vaccine free (for now)

The announcement comes after a proposed price hike was widely criticized.
Syringes with the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine on a table with bandaids and a fan.
Syringes with the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine lay ready to be used at the Dennis Avenue Health Center in Silver Spring, Maryland on November 21, 2022. Eric Lee for The Washington Post via Getty Image

Moderna announced that it will keep its COVID-19 vaccine free of charge for even after the federal government stops paying for it.

“Everyone in the United States will have access to Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine regardless of their ability to pay,” the pharmaceutical company wrote in a statement. “Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines will continue to be available at no cost for insured people whether they receive them at their doctors’ offices or local pharmacies.”

[Related: Biden will end COVID-19 national emergencies in May. Here’s what that means.]

In their statement, the company also claimed that its patient assistance program will provide free vaccines for the “uninsured and underinsured,” after the federal government’s public health emergency expires, which should be in May. The company did not say how long the vaccines would remain free. 

Moderna faced criticism in January after it announced it was raising the market price from about $26 per shot to as much as $130. The vaccine was developed with the help of billions of federal tax dollars and private donations. Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel is scheduled to testify before the Senate health committee on March 22 regarding the price for its COVID-19 vaccine when they are sold on the private market.

[Related: The FDA says get used to COVID-19 vaccine boosters.]

Moderna’s announcement of a potential price hike coincided with the Biden Administration informing Congress last month that it was moving towards ending the national public health emergency on May 11, 2023. This change would limit or end federal dollars towards the shots and leave uninsured Americans paying out of pocket for future boosters

The federal government had been paying for all COVID-19 vaccines despite insurance status, but ending the public health emergency means funds for federal support for programs aimed at serving the uninsured and those that explained testing, treatments, and Medicaid will dry up. Moderna says its patient assistance program is scheduled to be available after the public health emergency expires, though it is unclear for how long. 

The public health emergency was first declared by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on January 21, 2020. The national emergency was later declared by Former President Donald Trump in March 2020. President Biden has repeatedly extended both the national and public health emergencies since taking office in January 2021 and has extended them as recently as January 11.

In January, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that the coronavirus remains a global health emergency, despite a key advisory panel for the group finding that the pandemic may be nearing an “inflexion point” where higher levels of immunity could lower virus-related deaths.