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Public Funding Drove Development of All Five White House Vaccine Picks

Public Is Owed Transparency, Access Conditions and Technology Sharing, Public Citizen Says


WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Trump administration’s short-listed picks for a COVID-19 candidate vaccine all have benefited from substantial public funding by federal agencies and foreign governments, a Public Citizen report found.

The publicly funded candidates short-listed by the Trump administration include vaccines under development by AstraZeneca (with Oxford University), Moderna (with the National Institutes of Health), Johnson & Johnson, Merck (with IAVI) and Pfizer (with BioNTech).

In the years before the pandemic, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Defense, the governments of Canada and Germany and public-private partnerships funded by European governments and Japan collectively contributed hundreds of millions of dollars and scientific expertise to develop new vaccine technologies and manufacturing facilities upon which the short-listed candidate vaccines depend.

In addition, the U.S. government, the United Kingdom and China are running, or paying for, expensive clinical trials on short-listed candidates today. One federal agency, the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), has given about $2.5 billion since the pandemic began to support development and manufacturing of four of the candidate vaccines.

“The public’s early investment and scientific research was fundamental to global preparedness to develop COVID-19 vaccines today,” said Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines program. “If the world now were relying only on private sector research, we would be much farther behind in developing a vaccine candidate. Any successful vaccine should be shared with the world at cost, and the technology should be made public, to prevent a global vaccine apartheid.”

Public Citizen, Oxfam and hundreds of other organizations have called for transparency, affordability conditions and vaccine technology transfer – global sharing of vaccine-related knowledge and the licensing of patents and other proprietary rights to the public – so that a safe and effective vaccine can be produced by qualified manufacturers around the world and made accessible to all.

“We have no idea what conditions, if any, the Trump administration has required of drug corporations in exchange for billions in taxpayer dollars,” said Zain Rizvi, law and policy researcher for Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines program and author of Public Citizen’s analysis. “BARDA must publish its contracts to ensure the public’s interests – not drug manufacturers – are protected.”

Read Public Citizen’s report here.