What Moderna owes the world

Lebanon 2021 © Tracy Makhlouf/MSF

This essay was published by STAT on November 4, 2021.

By Dr. Carrie Teicher 

Moderna is expected to reveal its third quarter earnings on Nov. 4. The announcement will be a story of historic profits for the producer of one of the world’s most highly effective Covid-19 vaccines.

At the same time, only 3.9% of people in low-income countries have received even a single dose of Covid-19 vaccine.

Moderna is set to make $20 billion in 2021 off this vaccine alone, landing some of the company’s early investors onto Forbes’ list of wealthiest Americans this year.

This windfall obscures the dismal distribution of the Moderna vaccine in most parts of the world. Although the African Union recently announced its intent to purchase 110 million doses of the company’s Covid-19 vaccine, most low-income countries have yet to secure any doses and the company refuses to share information that would allow other manufacturers to produce its mRNA vaccine and help end this global pandemic.
Moderna isn’t alone: Pfizer, which with BioNTech produces the other mRNA-based Covid-19 vaccine, is on pace to make about $34 billion this year from its Covid-19 vaccine while also refusing to share its technology with other manufacturers to boost global production. Moderna is unique, however, because of the amount of U.S. public funding it has received for the development of its vaccine.

The federal government gave Moderna $10 billion in taxpayer money for research and development and for advanced purchases of the vaccine. This includes almost the entire cost of clinical development and the purchase of 500 million doses. Moderna also used patent and nonexclusive rights that the government made available to the company to make this Covid-19 vaccine.

After receiving so much public funding from U.S. taxpayers, Moderna has not lived up to its stated commitment to use its “resources to bring this pandemic to an end as quickly as possible.”

Given the tremendous support it received from the U.S. government and taxpayers, the company has a responsibility to help vaccinate the world to save lives and stem the development of new variants that may prolong the pandemic indefinitely.

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