[Ip-health] Politico: Biden admin spars with Moderna over international vaccine donations

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Thu Oct 7 04:53:38 PDT 2021


<SNIP>



Moderna said Thursday that its planned vaccine hub would cost as much as
$500 million to build, and it could eventually produce shots for other
diseases using the same mRNA technology that underlies its Covid-19 vaccine.

But outside experts estimate that constructing a facility from scratch,
hiring and training staff could take years. And the move is unlikely to
satisfy a White House that just weeks ago set a goal of ending the pandemic
by next September.

"We want them to increase the doses that can go in the very short term,"
the senior administration official said. The billions of taxpayer dollars
poured into developing the vaccine have only deepened U.S. officials'
frustration with the company's hesitation to further aid the president's
international efforts.

"The U.S. government co-invented the vaccine. We've spent over $8 billion,”
the official said.


https://www.politico.com/news/2021/10/07/biden-admins-moderna-international-donations-515537

HEALTH CARE

Biden admin spars with Moderna over international vaccine donations

The Biden administration has urged Moderna for months to increase its
production domestically.

The White House has donated tens of millions of Moderna doses abroad. |
Eugene Hoshiko/AP Photo

By ERIN BANCO, ADAM CANCRYN and SARAH OWERMOHLE

10/07/2021 06:00 AM EDT

Vaccine maker Moderna is resisting pressure from the White House to
increase international donations of its Covid-19 shot in 2022, according to
three people with direct knowledge of the matter.

The Biden administration has urged Moderna for months to increase its
production domestically, in an attempt to help deliver on the president’s
pledge to make the U.S. “an arsenal of vaccines” for the world. The White
House has donated tens of millions of Moderna doses abroad. Its push for
more comes despite the company’s agreement to supply 500 million doses to
low- and middle-income countries, including 34 million doses this year,
through the international vaccine aid program known as the COVAX Facility.

Moderna, which developed its shot with scientific and financial help from
the government, has shied away making additional commitments, the two
sources said. The company has cited worries about its ability to balance
its domestic and international responsibilities.

But administration officials privately believe the reluctance is also
driven in part by financial concerns: If Moderna agreed to sell the Biden
administration doses for poorer countries it would likely be asked to do so
at cost, one source said, putting pressure on its bottom line.

The company’s stance has infuriated top Biden health officials, who have
pressed Moderna executives in recent meetings that one person characterized
as “very intense.” The deliberations between the federal government and
Moderna could undermine the Biden administration’s efforts to ship more
doses overseas as it begins to roll out booster shots to Americans.

“We need them to step up to the plate in the short term and dramatically
increase the number of doses they’re delivering to low and middle-income
countries,” a senior administration official said.

The White House declined to comment on the record. Moderna has not yet
responded to a request for comment on the allegations about its financial
motivations.

But amid the ongoing tension, the company announced early Thursday that it
will build a vaccine-production hub in Africa to produce up to 500 million
doses each year. It has not chosen a site or set a timeline for opening the
facility, however.

“While we are still working to increase capacity in our current network to
deliver vaccines for the ongoing pandemic in 2022, we believe it is
important to invest in the future,” Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said in a
statement.

The Biden administration’s strained talks with Moderna stand in stark
contrast to its relationship with Pfizer and BioNTech. The partners turned
down government aid to develop their Covid-19 shot but have worked with the
administration to increase global vaccination. In September, the two
companies signed a deal with the federal government to deliver 1 billion
doses of their vaccine for international donation by the end of September
2022.

The White House announced in August that it would begin the process of
doling out boosters to most adults within weeks, sparking criticism from
top federal scientists and outside health experts. They argued that the
U.S. should instead focus on increasing domestic primary series
vaccinations and donations across the globe.

Since then, the Biden administration has tried to work with Moderna to find
new ways to increase doses available for donation.

“This is something the administration has been trying to get Moderna to
commit to for a long time,” one of the individuals with direct knowledge of
the situation said. “It’s been difficult.”

Moderna said Thursday that its planned vaccine hub would cost as much as
$500 million to build, and it could eventually produce shots for other
diseases using the same mRNA technology that underlies its Covid-19 vaccine.

But outside experts estimate that constructing a facility from scratch,
hiring and training staff could take years. And the move is unlikely to
satisfy a White House that just weeks ago set a goal of ending the pandemic
by next September.

"We want them to increase the doses that can go in the very short term,"
the senior administration official said. The billions of taxpayer dollars
poured into developing the vaccine have only deepened U.S. officials'
frustration with the company's hesitation to further aid the president's
international efforts.

"The U.S. government co-invented the vaccine. We've spent over $8 billion,”
the official said.

In the meantime, Moderna is also facing — and resisting — growing pressure
from activists and international organizations to share the formula for its
vaccine with manufacturers in other countries.

The Biden administration earlier this year formally backed waiving patent
protections for Covid-19 vaccines to expand production worldwide. But that
proposal is fiercely opposed by both drug manufacturers and some European
countries.


-- 
Thiru Balasubramaniam
Geneva Representative
Knowledge Ecology International
41 22 791 6727
thiru at keionline.org


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