Moderna Steps Halfway Out of WHO’s Way

WASHINGTON — Moderna recently released a Global Public Health Strategy including an “updated” patent pledge that Moderna will “never enforce patents for COVID-19 vaccines against manufacturers in or for” 92 low-income countries supported by the WHO-backed COVAX initiative.

Moderna later added that it will not enforce patents against the WHO-Afrigen Biologics mRNA technology transfer hub, based in South Africa, for uses supporting the 92 countries. However, South Africa itself is not among the exempted countries. South African activists previously had called on Moderna to withdraw its patent applications.

Zain Rizvi, Research Director in Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines program, released the following statement:

“Moderna now says it will not stand in the way of WHO efforts to teach manufacturers how to make COVID-19 vaccines for the world’s poorest countries. This is an important development attributable to intense public pressure. But the pledge has limitations.

“The Afrigen-WHO mRNA hub, which is based in South Africa, would not be able to supply people living in South Africa.

“The restrictions could harm efforts to make the vaccine technology available in other developing countries, as well.

“Moderna’s pledge reveals the limits of relying on the benevolence of a corporation for developing a pandemic strategy. Governments need to step up to make distributed mRNA vaccine manufacturing a reality. What is ultimately needed is for Moderna to send scientists to work with the Afrigen-WHO hub, and help make the vaccine technology available to people in all developing countries – not just a lucky few.”