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Nobel for mRNA Vaccine Must Ring as Call for Equity

Washington, D.C. – Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman were honored today with the Nobel Prize in medicine for their research that enabled the development of mRNA vaccines. In response, Peter Maybarduk, director of the Access to Medicines program at Public Citizen released the following statement.

“The mRNA vaccines saved many lives during the COVID emergency, though disproportionately in wealthy countries through a global vaccine apartheid that left billions of people without needed medical supplies.

“Many people can be grateful to the scientists and public health agencies that pioneered mRNA’s development. Yet even more people have been excluded. Today’s Nobel must ring as a call for equity and health justice, and a call to change a massively unjust pharmaceutical industry. mRNA is a transformative technology that should belong to humanity.”

“Moderna, Pfizer and BioNTech still largely control the available vaccines and in some countries have significantly increased their price, despite the billions in public funding on which the vaccines rely. This makes it harder, once again, for health agencies to support widespread vaccination. The U.S. government is paying for exorbitant price spikes of the NIH-Moderna vaccine federal scientists helped invent.

“Now there are scientists worldwide contributing to the future of mRNA, including through the WHO-backed technology transfer program with advanced partner laboratories and manufacturers across Africa, Asia and the Americas. mRNA has potential against diseases as diverse as HIV and malaria. By supporting initiatives to share science and technology, and by funding vaccine infrastructure, governments can help blunt the effects of disease, and bring a coda of justice to a terribly unjust time.”