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Report: Public Investment Has Given U.S. Government Legal Rights To Share NIH-Moderna Vaccine Information To Increase Vaccine Production

WASHINGTON, D.C – Through public investment in development of the NIH-Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, the U.S. government has the vaccine recipe in its possession and has rights under contract to share key information with the rest of the world to facilitate increased vaccine production, according to a new report by Public Citizen.

Drawing on publicly available sources, Public Citizen analyzed the manufacturing information Moderna likely produced after entering into its contract with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), concluding that the government appears to hold rights to share the commercial-scale vaccine recipe. The report found that BARDA, an arm of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, obtained the entire vaccine recipe in the process of supporting manufacturing scale-up. The government has “unlimited rights” to share technical information funded under its Moderna contract with other manufacturers, countries or the World Health Organization (WHO). Many vital vaccine manufacturing documents, including master production records that provide manufacturing instructions, were contract funded.

“The U.S. government paid for and has in its possession critical knowledge that can help many countries scale up vaccine manufacturing and end the pandemic,” said Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines program. “The world cannot afford for the knowledge to make effective COVID-19 vaccines to be held secret. Without vaccine manufacturing and delivery plans of much greater ambition, millions of people may lose their lives needlessly, and virus variants spread unchecked.”

Due to the massive global COVID-19 vaccine shortage less than 4% of people on the African continent and just 30% of people across Asia have obtained at least one dose of a vaccine, compared with 60% of Americans. More than 4.3 million people have died from COVID-19 so far. In recent days, scientists have rung the alarm to warn that without immediate action to vaccinate the rest of the world, new variants may emerge — including ones that may evade vaccines’ protection.

Public Citizen previously noted that the U.S. government has authority to require vaccine makers to share recipes and know-how under the Defense Production Act. Public Citizen is urging the Biden administration to immediately share vaccine knowledge with the WHO and provide the needed funding and support to help set up regional manufacturing hubs. On Aug. 9, Public Citizen and other health groups called on congressional leaders to include $34 billion for global vaccine manufacturing and delivery in the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package.

“A computer in a federal office in Washington D.C. contains documents that can help accelerate global vaccine production,” said Zain Rizvi, law and policy researcher at Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines program and author of the report. “The Biden administration should release the information it holds to save lives around the world and protect Americans from the risk of new variants.”