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Moderna vaccine will remain free for all Americans in coup for Bernie Sanders

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Moderna Inc. will keep its COVID-19 vaccines available and free of charge for all people in the U.S. after the public-health emergency ends, the company said late Wednesday.

The announcement is something of a coup for Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who chairs the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions and had called on Moderna
Chief Executive Stéphane Bancel to testify before Congress on a proposed price increase for the vaccine.

In January, the Wall Street Journal reported that the company was considering pricing the vaccine at $110 to $130 per dose, the same price as mooted by Pfizer Inc.
and German partner BioNTech
for their vaccine once it moves to a commercial market.

The vaccines were being purchased and distributed free of charge by the federal government under emergency declarations that President Joe Biden is planning to end on May 11.

Sanders was planning to grill Bancel to highlight what he called the greed of the pharmaceutical industry. The COVID vaccine was developed in cooperation with the National Institutes of Health using taxpayer money.

The proposed price increase was “outrageous” and “unconscionable,” Sanders wrote in a letter to Moderna in January.

The mRNA-based vaccine was Moderna’s first-ever approved product, and its success has made Bancel and other founding investors billionaires, Sanders said.

For uninsured or underinsured people, Moderna said it would provide the vaccine at no cost through its patient-assistance program.

“Everyone in the United States will have access to Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine regardless of their ability to pay,” the company said.

The news comes as the seven-day average of new U.S. COVID cases continues to fall, standing at 37,840 on Wednesday, according to a New York Times tracker. That’s down 9% from two weeks ago. The daily average for hospitalizations was down 11% to 28,360. The average for deaths was 428, down 6% from two weeks ago. 

Cases are currently rising in 25 states, led by Montana, where they are up 55% from two weeks ago. On a per capita basis, Kentucky leads with 21 cases per 100,000 residents, the tracker shows.

Coronavirus update: MarketWatch’s daily roundup has been curating and reporting all the latest developments every weekday since the coronavirus pandemic began

Other COVID-19 news you should know about:

• Chinese leaders are lauding the “miracle” of their zero-COVID reversal, calling the dramatic turn away from hardline pandemic curbs a “major decisive victory” and “completely correct,” according to state media, AFP reported. That’s despite the surge in cases that followed, filling hospitals and crematoriums across the nation. There have been signs in recent weeks that the wave is finally receding, with the country’s disease-control bureau saying Wednesday that the number of people receiving care for COVID in hospitals had declined by over 98 percent since early January.

• The population of Hong Kong dropped for a third straight year as deaths rose during the pandemic and anti-virus measures reduced the number of arriving workers, according to a government report. The report did not mention an exodus of residents sparked by a crackdown on the pro-democracy movement, the Associated Press reported. The city’s population declined 0.9% to 7.3 million at the end of 2022 from a year earlier, according to provisional data released by the Census and Statistics Department, which showed a net outflow of 60,000 residents, with 21,200 new residents arriving.

A 2011 law called the Wolf Amendment effectively bans the U.S. from working with China in space. But as the two countries move closer to sending missions to the moon, some in the space community ask: Has this law helped or hurt NASA?

• Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings
posted lower-than-expected revenue in the fourth quarter of 2022. Labcorp had earnings of $76.4 million, or 86 cents per share, in the fourth quarter, down from $553.6 million, or $5.75 per share, in the same quarter of 2021. Adjusted earnings per share were $4.14, against a FactSet consensus of $3.87. Revenue came in at $3.67 billion for the quarter, down from $4.06 billion in the same three months of 2021, driven in part by a nearly 21% drop in sales of COVID-19 tests. The FactSet consensus was $3.86 billion.

Here’s what the numbers say:

The global tally of confirmed COVID-19 cases topped 673.5 million on Tuesday, while the death toll rose above 6.85 million, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.

The U.S. leads the world with 103 million cases and 1,115,638 fatalities.

The CDC’s tracker shows that 229.8 million people living in the U.S., equal to 69.2% of the total population, are fully vaccinated, meaning they have had their primary shots.


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