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States plan vaccines, employers see costs

Coronavirus Daily
Bloomberg

Here's the latest news from the global pandemic.

Planning for Covid vaccines and costs

The dream of Covid-19 vaccines is coming closer to reality as Operation Warp Speed officials said that U.S. states' plans to roll out a shot from Pfizer are due Friday.

The U.S. is ready to ship 6.4 million doses of the vaccine from Pfizer and partner BioNTech as soon as the Food and Drug Administration clears it, said Gus Perna, chief operations officer of the federal drugs and vaccines accelerator. That could come as soon as mid-December.

Anticipation is mounting for Covid-19 vaccines developed in less than a year to battle the pandemic that's strangling economies worldwide. The Pfizer vaccine will be considered by FDA advisers for emergency authorization Dec. 10, and U.K. drug regulators have already cleared it.

Meanwhile, U.S. employers are increasingly concerned about their share of treatment costs for hospitalized Covid patients who currently number more than 100,000. Employers' Prescription for Affordable Drugs, a coalition of companies and other employers, cited Gilead Sciences' remdesivir antiviral as an example of an overpriced Covid-19 therapy.

Vials of Gilead's Remdesivir.

Photographer: ULRICH PERREY/AFP

Gilead declined to comment directly, pointing to a June statement saying that the price for the drug was set to ensure that it would not impede access for patients. The price is lower than the expected savings that would result from patients being released earlier from hospitals, Gilead said then.

Employers are also concerned about prices for vaccines, many of which have been developed with taxpayer funds allocated through Operation Warp Speed. While the government has pledged to pay for the initial doses, that may change after the pandemic abates, even though vaccination may still be needed.

Medicare, the health program serving older Americans, should determine fair prices for Covid drugs and inoculations that would also be paid by companies, organizations and individuals, the Employers' Prescription group said in a statement.

"These drugs and therapeutics were developed with significant federal investment," said Elizabeth Mitchell, chief executive officer of the Pacific Business Group on Health, a member of the employer group. "We think that needs to be reflected in the pricing."—Angelica LaVito and John Tozzi

Track the rollout

Tracking the Biggest Vaccine Rollout in History

Bloomberg is tracking nine of the most promising vaccines around the globe, from national procurement deals to shots in patients' arms. By our count, at least 7.85 billion doses have already been allotted. Explore the graphic here.

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What you should read

Shot Side Effects Risk Sidelining Health Workers
Fevers, headaches, joint pain may keep staff at home.
Airport Tests Here for Long Haul, Despite Vaccine
Efforts to provide gateside tests are gaining traction.
With Virus Spread in Homes, U.S. Is Out of Ideas 
New moves ignite debate over the role small gatherings may play. 
Are Covid Jabs Halal? Malaysia Asks
The decision on halal Covid-19 vaccine requires Monarch's consent.
Biden Eyes Masks for All for First 100 Days
The president-elect plans the order where federal law allows. 

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