WASHINGTON, DC–October 9, 2020–Moderna announced yesterday, under pressure from civil society groups including Free The Vaccine for COVID-19 and its allies in their calls for a People’s Vaccine, that it will not enforce patent protections on the pending coronavirus vaccine mRNA-1273. While such actions are a step in the right direction, they are without a doubt being made as a result of financial responsibility to US taxpayers, and the global need to contain and eradicate the virus. This is all a requirement for a People’s Vaccine, a growing global movement requiring that when safe and effective vaccine(s) are available they are produced rapidly at scale and made available for all people everywhere, free of charge.
In August 2020, Free the Vaccine for COVID-19 and its allies held a protest outside of Moderna’s headquarters in Cambridge, Mass., to urge the corporation to remove intellectual property rights around their pending coronavirus vaccine which was paid for with US taxpayer dollars, and to commit to signing the OpenCOVID pledge.
To date, Moderna has received close to a $1 billion dollars of taxpayer money for COVID vaccine research and development, which doesn’t include the additional $1.5 billion dollars the U.S. government was slated to pay for 300 million vials of the vaccine once it cleared drug trials. Unsurprisingly, big pharma once again was going to rip off the American public and handsomely profit off of the pandemic.
Despite a corporate press statement from Moderna highlighting the significance of IP rights and its hurdles, “…[we] recognize that intellectual property rights play an important role in encouraging investment in research,” this isn’t enough. Again, the corporation has yet to sign the Open COVID Pledge. The pledge would help prevent coronavirus-related intellectual property rights from being a future barrier to access worldwide.
“Centering patents and profit will only prolong this plague. Moderna must take action now to ensure that their publicly-funded vaccine candidate is sustainably priced and available to all. We cannot defeat this pandemic without global solidarity, and Moderna can play their part by opening up access to their intellectual property and pricing the vaccine sustainably,” says Sernah Essien, Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM), North America Coordinating Committee Member and a Free The Vaccine Project Manager.
In addition to urging Moderna to sign the Open COVID Pledge, the Free the Vaccine campaign is calling on the corporation to commit to sharing all rights and knowledge patent to the World Health’s Organization’s COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP) for as long as is necessary to end the pandemic. Any decision to the contrary will lead to further unnecessary deaths and vaccine apartheid where only high income countries have priority access.
“We urgently need a People’s Vaccine: available to everyone, everywhere free of charge” says Merith Basey, Universities Allied for Essential Medicines, Executive Director, North America. “Any monopolies on a vaccine will only keep prices artificially high and leaving entire nations at risk of vaccine apartheid. No one will be safe until we are all safe and this will be the most efficient way to end the pandemic as quickly as possible”.