Drug manufacturer Moderna’s vaccine against the coronavirus will be priced between $25 (approximately Rs 1,854) and $37 (approximately Rs 2,744) per dose, depending on the amount ordered by governments, company’s Chief Executive Officer Stephane Bancel said, Reuters reported on Sunday.

The vaccine candidate was found to be 94.5% effective against the virus during its phase three trials.

“Our vaccine therefore costs about the same as a flu shot, which is between $10 and $50,” Bancel told told German weekly, Welt am Sonntag, according to the news agency.

This came a day after an unidentified official of the European Union told Reuters that the European Commission wants to reach a deal with Moderna for the supply of millions of doses of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate for a price below $25 per dose.

Countries such as Britain, the US, France and Germany have been widely criticised for directly negotiating deals with pharmaceutical companies to receive billions of doses, meaning a majority of the world’s vaccine supply next year is already reserved.

Bancel said that no deal had been signed between Moderna and the countries so far. “But we are close to a deal with the EU Commission,” he said, adding that it was just a “matter of days” until a contract would be ready. “We want to deliver to Europe and are in constructive talks.”

Notably, experts have also pointed that Moderna’s vaccine uses mRNA-based technology, which would make them expensive in developing countries like India. mRNA stands for messenger ribonucleic acids which translate DNA information into proteins involved in bodily functions. There are currently no licensed mRNA vaccines.

On November 16, Moderna reported that during the phase 3 study of its vaccine candidate mRNA-1273, which enrolled 30,000 adult US participants, just five of the 95 Covid-19 cases occurred among the vaccinated, while 90 infections were identified in the placebo group. This corresponds to an efficacy of 94.5%. None of the infected patients who received the vaccine developed severe Covid-19, while 11 (12%) of those who received the placebo did.

However, it is still unclear how long immunity to the infection will last as the participants will need to be monitored longer. There has also been no data on the efficacy of the vaccine on older age groups, who are the most vulnerable. But Chief Medical Officer at Moderna Tal Zaks said that their data suggested that the vaccine “does not appear to lose its potency” with age.

Also read:

  1. How do Pfizer and Moderna vaccines work? And why do they need to be kept so cold?
  2. Six questions (and answers) about Moderna and Pfizer’s vaccines showing promising results
  3. Pfizer vaccine’s -70° Celsius storage requirement will be a challenge for India, says AIIMS director

Race for vaccines

Besides Moderna, the interim results from Pfizer released last week, suggested its vaccine reduces cases of Covid-19 with 90% efficacy. With so many Covid-19 vaccines in development, more results are likely to follow in the coming months.

Pfizer, which has completed its trial, submitted an application on Friday for emergency use authorisation of the vaccine. Another vaccine candidate developed by the Oxford University and AstraZeneca has produced strong immune responses in older adults in second stage trials.

India has not yet signed a deal for a coronavirus vaccine so it is unclear when it will be available for use in the country, despite some leaders promising it will be available from as early as January. Availability of the vaccine in India will be subject to approval by domestic regulators, and the Indian government agreeing to purchase them. So far, many other nations including the United States, United Kingdom, the European Union, Australia and Israel have made deals to buy millions of doses of the vaccines.

Besides, the cold storage requirements also pose a challenge for developing countries like India in the procurement of the vaccines. For instance, Pfizer’s vaccine must be shipped and stored at freezing temperatures of minus 70 degrees Celsius from the moment they are bottled to the time they are ready to be injected.

This is significantly lower than the standard 2-8 degrees Celsius storage requirement. Currently India has no system or infrastructure to be able to deliver a minus 80 degree Celsius vaccine.

A research by German logistics firm DHL and consultancy firm McKinsey has found that insufficient “last mile” cooling facilities in the final delivery stages and a lack of storage at clinics in large parts of Africa, Asia and South America would “pose the biggest challenge” to delivering these vaccines at scale.

The health ministry on November 18, said the government is examining all possibilities for the procurement of these vaccines despite the challenges.