Covid-19 vaccines save billions of dollars in the U.S. healthcare system

Senator Bernie Sanders, in another rant against the biopharmaceutical industry, criticized the makers of Covid-19 vaccines for the “obscene” profits generated by these drugs. Indeed, Pfizer has estimated that its global sales of its Comirnaty vaccine will be $ 36 billion and that of Moderna’s vaccine, Spikevax, should be between $ 15 billion and $ 17 billion. These are extraordinary numbers for these companies. But are they justified?

Bloomberg estimates that as of December 21, 2021, 495 million doses have been administered in the United States out of a total of 8.79 billion doses administered worldwide. In the United States, the Pfizer vaccine is priced at $ 19.50 / dose or $ 39 for the standard two-dose regimen. Moderna’s vaccine costs $ 30 for its two-dose regimen and J&J, which only requires one dose, costs $ 10 / dose. Bloomberg does not provide a breakdown of the percentage of each vaccine that makes up the 495 million doses administered to date in the United States. most of the vaccinations to date. So, using the figure of $ 19.50, the United States will have spent – at most – $ 9.6 billion on Covid-19 vaccines.

What was the benefit of such an expense? The Commonwealth Fund, a private U.S. foundation dedicated to promoting a high-quality health care system, estimated that between December 12, 2020 and November 30, 2021, a total of 1,087,191 deaths were prevented with vaccinations. against Covid-19. Using the estimate, albeit high, of US $ 9.6 billion for Covid-19 vaccine purchases, the United States spent $ 8,880 for every life saved. The health care system regularly spends much more than that to save a life. The cost of a liver transplant exceeds $ 300,000. A basic hip replacement costs $ 40,000. Life-saving gene therapies can cost $ 2.1 million. Certainly, avoiding a death from Covid-19 is worth $ 8,880.

Even more striking figures come from savings in hospital costs. The Commonwealth Fund also estimated that, thanks to Covid-19 vaccines, 10,319,961 hospitalizations were prevented. American News and World Report reported that the average financial cost of hospitalization for a Medicare-insured Covid-19 patient is $ 21,752 / patient. This is the price of a 9 day stay. If the patient is severely infected and requires a ventilator resulting in a longer hospital stay of approximately 17 days, the cost to Medicare is $ 49,441. Even though the lower figure of $ 21,752 is used for argumentation purposes, the Covid-19 vaccines saved the health care system $ 224.5 billion. For example, the US $ 9.6 billion investment in vaccines has saved more than a million lives and nearly a quarter of a TRILLION in hospital costs. Of course, that doesn’t include the huge benefits that vaccinations have brought to the United States in other ways in terms of getting kids back to school, reopening businesses, etc.

Considering these important benefits of Covid-19 vaccines, it is difficult to view revenue from sales of these life-saving products as obscene. But, I guess Senator Sanders, unfortunately, will not agree.

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