Letter: U.S. Government, Not Big Pharma, Should Own Vaccine Manufacturing Under New Plan

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a letter today, Public Citizen, PrEP4All, and Partners In Health are calling on the Biden administration to ensure that any domestic mRNA COVID vaccine manufacturing capacity established pursuant to its November announcement be publicly owned.

“We are concerned by the intimation from the White House that this new, critical American biosecurity infrastructure will simply be gifted to private companies such as Pfizer or Moderna to operate under their total ownership,” says the letter, sent to the White House chief science officer for pandemic response, David Kessler, and Gary Disbrow, director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority. “However, for this investment to make the impact on supply and access that is needed, it is essential the U.S. government scales the ambition of this plan to produce billions more doses per year and retains ownership over any new domestic manufacturing capacity that is established.”

The groups note that increasing mRNA production capacity and ensuring fair pricing and global access is even more critical in light of the Omicron variant, with insufficient vaccine access exposing the world to potential emergence of new variants. Eight billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered globally, yet only 6% of people in low-income countries have received even a single dose. As the letter points out, the proportion of mRNA vaccine doses from Moderna and Pfizer that have reached low-income countries is even lower than from other manufacturers.

“Allowing Pfizer and Moderna total control over mRNA production and allocation has been disastrous for global vaccine access,” continues the letter.

Meanwhile, Moderna and Pfizer are projecting cumulative sales in 2021 of more than $50 billion for COVID-19 vaccines alone. Industry analysts project even greater windfalls in 2022, with Pfizer and Moderna revenues approaching $100 billion.

“Unless the U.S. government owns the manufacturing and exercises stewardship of the mRNA vaccine technology it helped pioneer, we risk repeating the cycle of the past year, in which manufacturer failures and corporate control compromise global vaccine access and slow efforts to end the pandemic,” concludes the letter. “We call for domestic mRNA production to be publicly owned.”