‘Appalling’: Moderna Rebuked Over Latest Covid-19 Vaccine Patent Strategy

Jerri-Lynn here. Moderna has announced it won’t enforce patent rights to its mRNA vaccines in certain lower income countries. That’s not good enough. Biden should follow through on his secure to secure a patent waiver under the TRIPS agreement at the World Trade Organisation. This far into the pandemic, it borders on criminal that this step hasn’t yet been achieved.

By Andrea Germanos. Originally published at Common Dreams

Vaccine equity campaigners on Tuesday accused Moderna of continuing its stranglehold over lifesaving technology in response to the biotechnology company’s announcement that includes a vow to never enforce Covid-19 patents in some lower-income countries.

Moderna is clearly feeling the pressure from the millions of people challenging their lucrative monopoly, but their billionaire CEO shouldn’t get to choose who lives and who dies in this pandemic,” said Julia Kosgei, policy advisor at the People’s Vaccine Alliance, in a statement.

“Everyone,” she said, “should have access to this lifesaving technology, which is why governments need to waive intellectual property rules and break vaccine monopolies.”

n a shift from its stance not to enforce patents for the duration of the pandemic, Moderna announced Tuesday that it would not enforce the protections for its publicly funded coronavirus vaccine at any time on manufacturers in the 92 countries able to access doses through Gavi’s COVAX Advance Market Commitment mechanism.

The World Health Organization’s global messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine technology transfer hub in South Africa—where researchers last month successfully created an mRNA-based coronavirus vaccine modeled after Moderna’s—would also be covered under that pledge, Politico reported.

The company additionally announced a new mRNA vaccine manufacturing plant in Kenya as well as a tool to help allow international researchers access to Moderna’s mRNA platform and “explore novel vaccine designs against prototype viral families in preparation for Disease X.” The intellectual property rights of vaccines developed this way would be jointly owned by the researchers and Moderna, according to FT.

“Our pledge further highlights our commitment to global access,” Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel—whose company stands accused of “continuously putting Africa last in line”—said in a statement.

In an interview with Politico, Bancel also defended not working with the WHO hub in South Africa, calling it “not a good use of our time,” as his company’s engineers would be redirected from other work.

According to Kosgei of the People’s Vaccine Alliance, “If Moderna really cared about vaccine access for low and middle-income countries, they would share their vaccine blueprints with the WHO’s Covid-19 technology access pool, cooperate with the WHO mRNA hub in South Africa, and revoke the patents they have filed in that country.”

“Instead,” she said, “lives have been lost while Moderna has sat on their hands. And now they claim that helping the biggest mRNA manufacturing effort in the Global South would not be a good use of their time. Meanwhile, many middle-income countries, including most of Latin America, are excluded from Moderna’s licensing proposal and will still pay top dollar for lifesaving medicines.”

“It’s appalling,” said Kosgei.

In a Twitter thread, Global Justice Now director Nick Dearden called Moderna’s new pledge on patents “the absolute minimum we should expect” and simply “not enough.”

Part of the issue, according to Dearden, is that “Moderna’s vaccine is the U.S. govt. vaccine. They paid for it.”

Dearden further to the company’s dispute over ownership and said that “if the U.S. wins, they could share the technology freely with the WHO. So Moderna might have no choice in the matter.”

Dearden also took issue with Moderna’s limits on the patent pledge, noting for example that it excludes South Africa, “which is the country *actually researching* an mRNA vaccine so it can share it with the world.”

Additionally, said Dearden, “not taking legal action isn’t the same as *sharing* its publicly funded vaccine know-how. When the WHO asked for this, Moderna refused, costing many lives.”

“Companies like Moderna make such money by monopolizing knowhow which, if shared openly, could help create a healthier and fairer world,” he said, pointing to the firm’s 70% profit margin on the vaccines.

Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines program, echoed that message.

“Moderna needs to be challenged,” tweeted Maybarduk, “and governments need to step up, to free mRNA technology and NIH-Moderna, the people’s vaccine, for the world.”

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  1. BeliTsari

    I’m one of several posters I recognize, here, that were banished from Common Dreams’ comments threads for citing links, pertinent to this story, 6-9 months ago (concerns with variants-of-concern in gigantic, virtually un vaccinated populations; many of whom were severely immuno-compromised. And as with their product setting-off autoimmune or serious inflammatory side effects, studiously unreported by US media; their response was to ban ALL substantiating links, regardless of source.

    1. T_Reg

      Yeah, it’s really disheartening. I’ve dropped a number of sites from my browsing list for fanatical enforcement of “the narrative”. WSWS comes to mind, but some seemingly progressive sites have exposed themselves as dogmatic enforcers of the Democratic Party’s propaganda. News sites, small blogs, editorial cartoonists, etc.; it’s, dare I say, endemic.

      1. Mason

        It feels lonely and I’m not sure where I fit in the left anymore. Almost politically homeless.

        1. Arizona Slim

          Beli, T, and Mason, here’s Slim with a note of encouragement.

          You may not realize it, but you just sat down at the cool kids’ table. And we’re glad you’re here!

        2. BlakeFelix

          Politically homeless is more or less where I live, too. Welcome!

          I wish that I could say that we were the crazy ones, but I fear that it’s the kids that are wrong. Or maybe we are all a little bit crazy, here. Does the US have a viable left party lol? I feel like it’s right/chaotic neutral and zany right/chaotic evil.

          1. JBird4049

            I think that both parties are chaotic evil especially the Democrats with the Republicans edging into lawful evil. They are two pro wealth parties with one pretending to be moderate liberal and the other conservative. Really, they just serve money. I am waiting for some coup in either party that will shift it to just lawful evil, which will likely be the Republicans.

            1. JBird4049

              I wonder if someone could make a Dungeons and Dragons like game that uses its system to model today’s insanity. Maybe a Cthulhuesque role playing one. It’s been ages, but playing a rpg imagining VP bimbette Kamala Harris as being an acolyte of some Dread Evil or selling her soul or her children’s to The Devil would make all this more believable.

              I guess a third of the nation is constitutionally eligible to be president. Tens of millions of people with most of them of good will, but the Powers That Be installed Tweedledim and Tweedledumb as President and Vice President. And now we have Cold War Two: This Time It’s Just Stupid.

        3. Lee Collins

          I read somewhere that the political division these days isn’t really between right and left, but between Establishment followers and Establishment questioners. That description feels more and more accurate every day.

      2. BeliTsari

        THANK you! WSWS is basically VERY obtuse propaganda. BUT they were unique in coverage of the real COVID, in a time of blatant tag-team kleptocracy: covering precariate labor being labled “essential” and forked to a virus, that elsewhere, killed a few thousands; to flip victims’ homes, indenture PASC survivors into 1099 gig surfdom and is now about to sacrifice hundreds-of-thousands more kids to lifelong disability… it’s easier to overlook craziness. ProPublica, even In These Times did GREAT coverage of the feeding frenzy, but everyone seems to forbid contradictory links? To Slim: Some of us thought we’d a home at Crooks & Liars or Wonkette (I was ‘Simon Girty,’ posting about a scary development after Katrina, called “high-volume slick water hydraulic fracturing” that methane was FAR worse than carbon dioxide, clean coal, biomass and refurbished 45-60yr old reacters were diversions) ZzzZzz…


      1. Gumnut

        That fact check is a bit suss:
        – the other instances are from a bacterium (how does that get genetic material into a bat virus?)
        – I grant that the bird example poses a fair challenge, but wouldn’t be surprised if that tweet is fake (all other technical challenges have long threads, this one has none). But agree that if true it would debunk things
        – the table with ‘close’ similarities is junk. Both of us are very high 90s % close similar to our ape brothers genetically speaking.

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