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The news read like Heritage Foundation fan fiction. Pfizer, a 171-year-old paragon of American industry, was the first to generate truly promising data on a Covid-19 vaccine. And like a pharmaceutical John Henry — or John Galt — the company did it without accepting a single dollar from the federal government and its Operation Warp Speed.

Major drug makers have spent years arguing that their often controversial pricing practices are the essential tradeoff for occasionally world-changing medicines. And here was Pfizer, using only its ample profits to come through with “likely the most significant medical advance in the last 100 years,” as its CEO put it to CNBC.

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