Advocates to President Biden: Don’t Give Away New Publicly-Owned Coronavirus Vaccine Technology to Corporations

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Pan-coronavirus vaccine technology currently in development by the U.S. military must remain public and should be shared with the world, more than two dozen advocacy groups said in a letter sent to President Joe Biden today ahead of the White House Summit on the Future of COVID-19 Vaccines. Signatories include Public Citizen, Demand Progress Education Fund, RESULTS, Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative, and Revolving Door Project, a project of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

If successful, the vaccine under development at U.S. Army’s Walter Reed Institute of Research could fight not only the virus that causes COVID-19 but new coronaviruses. The letter cites how private, monopoly control over previous coronavirus vaccines funded with public money contributed to shortages, rationing, and excessive prices.

“It is crucial that we learn from earlier mistakes in managing publicly funded vaccine technology,” notes the letter. “There is no compelling reason to offer this technology on a monopoly basis to a corporation, and a profoundly compelling reason to make the technology as open and readily accessible as possible across the globe.”

The letter urges the Biden administration to:

  • Openly license the vaccine to qualified manufacturers on conditions ensuring fair pricing and equitable access;
  • Share vaccine technology, data, and know-how with the World Health Organization, including through the COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP); and
  • Prepare to invest in government-owned production facilities.

“The first task in preparing for the future of COVID vaccines is learning from the calamitous past, including the failure to share vaccines early in the pandemic and equip the world against the virus,” said Peter Maybarduk, Access to Medicines program director at Public Citizen. “The White House has the power and responsibility to ensure publicly-developed COVID technologies are made available to everyone, everywhere.”

“Current production and distribution agreements have empowered corporations while limiting the promise of life-saving coronavirus vaccines,” said Timi Iwayemi, senior researcher for the Revolving Door Project. “Continuing down a path that restricts widespread manufacturing and distribution of COVID vaccines would lead to unnecessary deaths and easier opportunities for the virus to mutate.”