Erik Prince involved in push for experimental COVID-19 vaccine: report

Erik Prince, the former head of security contractor Blackwater and a top ally of former President Trump, was reportedly part of a deal crafted last year to distribute an experimental COVID-19 vaccine.

Prince is involved with the possible distribution of the UB-612 vaccine, which is being developed by U.S. firm COVAXX, according to Reuters, which cited business records and three people familiar with the arrangement.

It was not immediately clear how Prince became involved with COVAX, and the company did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill.

COVAXX, which is based in Dallas, is different than the similarly named COVAX, the United Nations-backed vaccine sharing initiative that aims to help mostly poorer countries.

A spokesperson for the U.S.-based company told Reuters that COVAX has “accepted introductions from a variety of private, public and non-profit intermediaries, both formally and informally.”

Texts messages from Prince suggested he saw an opening to profit from a distribution deal for COVAX’s shot.

“There’s room for a couple dollars per dose in commissions,” Prince reportedly said in a Nov. 9 text to Paul Behrends, a former associate.

COVAX said earlier this year that a study consisting of 60 patients in Taiwan showed strong potential for creating antibodies to protect from the coronavirus.

Prince first gained widespread attention in 2007 when contractors with his Blackwater firm killed 17 civilians in Iraq. He also faced allegations of breaking an arms embargo by sending weapons to Somalia in 2012. A former Navy SEAL and the brother of former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Prince mostly sends his resources to Africa.

His reported involvement in the vaccine distribution push comes as the U.S. and other countries seek to boost vaccination numbers in an effort to further drive down coronavirus cases.

The White House announced this week that it plans to share 25 million vaccine doses abroad, with about three quarters of them going to COVAX and the rest going to individual countries.

Tags Betsy DeVos Blackwater COVID-19 vaccine Donald Trump Erik Prince

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