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Report: U.S. Government May Co-Own Coronavirus Vaccine Candidate

Government Should Exercise Its Rights to Make Future Vaccine Affordable, Plentiful

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. government may jointly own a leading coronavirus vaccine candidate, mRNA-1273, a Public Citizen report today finds, and the government should exercise its rights to make the vaccine affordable to all in plentiful supply, if it proves safe and effective.

Public Citizen found two patent application disclosures by federal scientists likely concerning mRNA-1273. Recent agreements between Moderna and the National Institutes of Health, reported by Axios, suggest that the government has a stake in the potential vaccine. These applications and collaboration agreements likely show the U.S. government will co-own important patents on mRNA-1273, so long as those patents are granted, giving the government significant rights over a potential COVID-19 vaccine.

The report argues that the federal government should condition Moderna’s use of essential U.S. patented vaccine inventions on reasonable pricing and ensuring sufficient supply. Globally, the U.S. government should share its intellectual property and know-how with the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Technology Access Pool, so all qualified producers can help scale up production, Public Citizen said.

“This is the people’s vaccine,” said Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines program. “It is not merely Moderna’s vaccine. Federal scientists played a critical role inventing it, and taxpayers are funding its development. The U.S. government can share this information with the world to help prevent rationing that could become a form of global vaccine apartheid.”

“Ownership comes with obligations,” said Zain Rizvi, law and policy researcher with Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines Program and author of the report. “The government has added responsibility to help ensure that everyone in the U.S. and worldwide has timely access to a safe and effective vaccine. Nobody should be left behind.”

Read the report here.