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Report: Alliance of Foundations, Governments Have Production, Pricing Rights in COVID-19 Vaccine Candidates

CEPI and COVAX Could Use Legal Leverage to Scale-up Global Supply

WASHINGTON, D.C. – An international charitable coalition of foundations and governments has significant, yet unreported rights in leading coronavirus vaccine candidates and could insist on expanding production of a vaccine globally amid fears of a shortage, a new report by Public Citizen found.

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) co-leads the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 vaccine access facility, known as COVAX, which also is supported by power brokers like the World Bank and the Gates Foundation. COVAX has provided no assurances to governments regarding how many doses pharmaceutical corporations will supply or at what price.

“In the worst health crisis in a century, vaccine funders must use every tool at their disposal to share technology and teach the world to make vaccines,” said Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines Program. “Governments and foundations must learn to use their power and tell pharmaceutical corporations what to do if we are to prevent a global vaccine apartheid.”

“CEPI and COVAX should live up to their stated commitments to transparency by making all contracts publicly available,” said Zain Rizvi, law & policy researcher in the Access to Medicines Program and author of the report. “Accountability begins with transparency.”

Public Citizen reviewed CEPI contracts newly disclosed in financial filings, as well as details about other arrangements that show how CEPI and COVAX could expand affordable global supply. CEPI has provided over a billion dollars in critical funding to nine coronavirus vaccine candidates. In exchange, the coalition appears to have certain legal rights in the vaccine candidates it has helped fund. Public Citizen found that in the cases of:

  • CureVac: CEPI can require CureVac to share vaccine technology and allow additional manufacturers to expand supply in some circumstances. Additionally, CureVac is required to obtain CEPI’s permission to use the vaccine candidate in a way that goes against CEPI access policies. This could be used to restrict vaccine hoarding;
  • Novavax: CEPI can require Novavax to share vaccine technology and license other manufacturers in some circumstances. This could help expand supply;

Moderna: Moderna appears to be violating CEPI’s principle to provide access based on public health need, instead of ability to pay, by entering into purchase agreements solely with high-income countries. CEPI can insist that Moderna support global access.