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BioNTech-Pfizer wanted €54 per vaccine dose

Michael Buchsbaum
February 18, 2021

According to German media outlets, in June the companies offered 500 million doses for €27 billion. The head of German Drug Commission suspects "profiteering."

BioNTech-Pfizer coronavirus vaccine doses
BioNTech-Pfizer reportedly wanted over €50 a dose for their coronavirus vaccineImage: Christof STACHE/AFP

According to information revealed by German public media broadcasters NDR and WDR and daily newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, last summer the EU Commission received a strictly confidential bid from pharmaceutical manufacturers Pfizer and BioNTech offering their vaccine for a price of €54.08 ($65.4) per dose, for a purchase of 500 million doses.

In total, BioNTech-Pfizer wanted €27 billion to supply enough jabs to inoculate almost half of the EU's population. 

But at €54.08 a dose, the BioNTech vaccine would have cost more than 20 times as much as doses of AstraZeneca, which was developed jointly with Oxford University.

At the time, BioNTech-Pfizer said the price already included "the highest percentage discount" offered to any industrialized country in the world.

"I think the price is dubious," said Wolf Dieter Ludwig, chairman of the Drug Commission of the German Medical Association.

"I see in it a profit motive that is in no way justified in the current pandemic situation." 

Wolf Dieter Ludwig looks at camera
Wolf Dieter Ludwig, chairman of the Drug Commission of the German Medical Association criticized the high prices. 'I see in it a profit motive that is in no way justified in the current pandemic situation.'Image: Privat

US negotiated much lower prices

Only in November of 2020 did the EU reach an agreement with BioNTech-Pfizer. However, the final price has been kept secret until today.

But according to information published by the media groups, it should be around €15.50 per dose.

The news agency Reuters has also confirmed this price. 

BioNTech-Pfizer had reportedly lowered its prices in their US offer after that country had signed a contract for 100 million doses at a cost of $1.95 billion, which works out to about €16 per dose.

High prices despite millions in subsidies

The high prices that BioNTech-Pfizer wanted from the EU are not the only surprising revelations in the reporting.

The company also initially claimed that they had "completely financed" the development of the vaccine by themselves.

Though this position may be true for Pfizer, it is not for the German company BioNTech, which received millions in state subsidies.  

The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) informed the media groups that the ministry "provided significant support for the founding phase of BioNTech and provided financial and also structural support for the crucial first years of the spin-off.

A BioNTech spokeswoman also said the company "received about €50 million in funding from the cluster initiative and EU programs during the first years after its founding."

What do we know about the BioNtech-Pfizer vaccine?

Needs of the many outweigh needs of the few

"The pharmaceutical industry always says that the high costs are due to research and development, but also because the benefits are so great," says Ludwig.

However the benefits cannot now be assessed. "We are currently in a crisis situation, where the goal must be to vaccinate not only in the industrialized countries, but worldwide. Against that background, I think the interests of the shareholders are less important than the interests of the populations that want to be free from this pandemic."

Though the company did not reply directly to news reports about its initial offer, it did defend the reported price as being "within a certain range for all higher-income countries."

The company also claims it has not made a profit so far. BioNTech's CEO has said if it does, than the company plans to "reinvest them in the further development of this technology."

A spokesperson for the EU Commission said that releasing information on pricing was not allowed for contractual reasons.

'Likelihood is high' vaccine will work against new variant

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