WASHINGTON, D.C. — Moderna should immediately disclose whether it has excess production capacity to help meet the massive vaccine shortage in low- and middle-income countries, 87 civil society groups fighting to end vaccine apartheid said today in a letter to Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel.
Organizations worldwide including Public Citizen, Archewell Foundation, UNAIDS, Oxfam and Médecins Sans Frontières, and coordinated by the People’s Vaccine Alliance, called on Bancel to confirm whether Moderna will transfer vaccine technology to qualified manufacturers through the World Health Organization to speed up production. They also asked Moderna to disclose if it will sell vaccine doses to low- and middle-income countries at a not-profit price, including through COVAX, the global program distributing COVID vaccines. Similar questions have been asked by Dr. David Kessler, head of the White House COVID-19 Response Team.
“Moderna lags behind even its recalcitrant Big Pharma counterparts when it comes to offering a dose of compassion to the world in this time of need,” said Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines program. “The Biden administration and WHO have asked for Moderna’s help, and so far Moderna largely has spurned them, despite the U.S. government’s essential role developing the NIH-Moderna vaccine and significant contributions to making Moderna executives billionaires. It is past time to share the NIH-Moderna vaccine with the world.”
The NIH-Moderna vaccine is the best defense against COVID-19, with the potential to save millions of lives worldwide in the near future and help end the pandemic. Yet Moderna has shipped a greater share of doses to wealthy nations than any other COVID-19 vaccine manufacturer, leaving low- and middle-income countries without doses or with long waits and high prices.
The NIH-Moderna vaccine was developed with significant public resources. U.S. federal scientists helped to invent it, run clinical trials, and scale manufacturing. Nearly $10 billion in public funds paid for the research and development and to purchase doses, including a $1.5 billion pre-order that guaranteed a market for an unproven product.
“Thousands are dying each day from COVID-19 while Moderna keeps its vaccine out of reach,” said Max Lawson, co-chair of the People’s Vaccine Alliance. “Any and all of the company’s spare capacity should be used to ramp up vaccine manufacturing. But there is another huge pool of untapped global manufacturing capacity that Moderna’s CEO Stéphane Bancel can unleash – if he immediately shares the technology and know-how needed to manufacture Moderna’s jab – ESPECIALLY with the WHO’s mRNA hub in South Africa.”
“Incredible sums of public money were poured into the development of this vaccine. Public scientists are responsible for its success,” said Christian Urrutia, co-founder and managing director of PrEP4All. It should belong to the people, not to one freeloading company. It cannot be right for Moderna to make a killing off the back of American taxpayers, while billions of people are left unable to access or afford their vaccine.”