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WASHINGTON — Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel has some explaining to do.

Bancel will appear alone before Sen. Bernie Sanders’ health committee on Wednesday, where he’ll have to defend his company’s suggestion it will likely quadruple the price of its Covid vaccines once sales transition from bulk federal purchases to the open market.


The Senate hearing will be a watershed moment for Bancel, a biotech superstar forged during the pandemic. While Covid vaccine rival manufacturer Pfizer is an established pharmaceutical behemoth with a massive lobbying influence in Washington, in contrast, Moderna registered its first lobbyist in Washington in 2019 and its Covid-19 vaccine is its only product on the market.

Sanders, a Vermont Independent, has in the past accused Bancel and Moderna’s other co-founders of profiteering off of taxpayer-funded research, since facets of the company’s approach to making its messenger RNA-based vaccine were developed at the National Institute of Health’s Vaccine Research Center.

On the same day the hearing was announced, Moderna revealed plans to create a patient assistance program to provide vaccines at no cost to people who are uninsured or underinsured. Those with insurance won’t face out-of-pocket fees at the time they are vaccinated, but the higher price could well be reflected in insurance premiums.

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