Access to medicines campaigners today welcome the news that Moderna may have found an effective COVID-19 vaccine, but warn that serious affordability and access challenges lay ahead. Governments and pharmaceutical companies must take urgent action to make sure all countries can vaccinate their vulnerable groups.
Our best chance of all staying safe is to ensure a COVID-19 vaccine is available for all. Even though Moderna has received $2.48 billion in public money to help develop the vaccine, it’s reported price tag of $50-$60 per course is the highest cited for a potential vaccine so far. This is more than ten times the expected price of other leading vaccine candidates. This makes Moderna’s vaccine vastly expensive for all countries, especially for lower income countries struggling in the global recession.
As it stands, Moderna can only produce 1 billion doses for 2020 and 2021. This is nowhere near enough to meet global demand, especially when over 75% of doses have already been hoarded by rich countries through advanced purchase deals leaving virtually nothing for lower income countries.
We need pharmaceutical corporations to allow vaccines to be produced on a massive scale as widely as possible. To do this they must share their knowledge of how each vaccine is made. Moderna’s vaccine uses a new approach which many traditional vaccine manufacturers are unfamiliar with.
Last month Moderna stated that they would not enforce their COVID-19 related patents against those making vaccines intended to combat the pandemic. They also stated that they are willing to license their intellectual property for COVID-19 vaccines to others for the post pandemic period. This is a welcome step, but without Moderna sharing their know-how of how this new kind of vaccine is made other vaccine manufacturers won’t have the technical information required to make the vaccine.
With Moderna’s vaccine now looking to be effective, it must urgently put these words into action. Moderna should share their vaccine – along with the research and the technical know-how – with the World Health Organisation’s COVID-19 Technology Access Pool. The technical know-how can be shared and licences can be provided to enable other manufacturers to make the vaccine – not only will this ensure more affordable prices but will also help ensure sufficient quantities are produced for the world.
Saoirse Fitzpatrick, Advocacy Manager, STOPAIDS said:
It’s brilliant that we have another effective vaccine in the pipeline, but Moderna’s product is only going to make a difference in this pandemic if we can secure global access to it. If it is too expensive for health systems in low and middle income countries or if it ends up being rationed because the company and their contracted manufacturers can’t make enough, then its value is limited. It doesn’t need to be this way. Moderna could be an industry leader and agree to share the knowledge of how to make this new vaccine with the rest of the world so all countries can treat their vulnerable populations. The UK Missing Medicines coalition, convened by STOPAIDS, urge them to do so.
Diarmaid McDonald, Lead Organiser, Just Treatment said:
“This is more good news in the largely publicly funded effort to develop a COVID vaccine. Moderna received billions in taxpayer support to develop this product – yet have had their wrists slapped for trying to conceal this truth. The big question is whether this public investment will translate into access, with Moderna pricing for profit despite this state support.
At least the company has acknowledged that their patent monopoly could be a risk to the global response, having promised not to enforce their intellectual property on this vaccine. But they must go further and participate in a WHO effort to pool all relevant Intellectual Property and know-how to allow multiple manufacturers to produce generic versions of the vaccine that will overcome the supply and price barriers that risk the pandemic response.”
Rhiannon Osborne, Policy and Advocacy Director, Students for Global Health
“If we have an effective vaccine, then we need to prioritize global health equity, not national security. Whilst most of this vaccine has been bought up by rich countries – it’s not too late to share the benefits more widely. We need as many people as possible to manufacture an effective vaccine, which means sharing of knowledge with the WHO’s C-TAP. We also need to make sure that profit is not put before public health and the vaccine is affordable, best achieved, once again, by sharing the knowledge as widely as possible”