Democrats call on White House to explore sharing Moderna technology abroad

Democrats call on White House to explore sharing Moderna technology abroad
© Greg Nash

A group of congressional Democrats is calling on the Biden administration to explore ways to share Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine technology with other countries, saying more needs to be done to boost global vaccinations. 

“It is imperative for the administration to take bold steps to dramatically expand global vaccine access and manufacturing capabilities as quickly as possible,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to the Biden administration led by Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenDemocrats scramble to reach deal on taxes Ethics office warned officials about unnecessary trades Fed imposes tougher rules on financial trades amid scandal MORE (D-Mass.) and Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleySenate Democrats call for diversity among new Federal Reserve Bank presidents Democrats look for plan B on filibuster GOP blocks Senate Democrats' revised elections bill MORE (D-Ore.) and Rep. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalProposals to reform supports for parents face chopping block Democrats see light at end of tunnel on Biden agenda Democrats jostle over health care priorities for scaled-back package MORE (D-Wash.).

The three noted that less than 10 percent of the population in low-income countries is vaccinated. 

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The lawmakers pointed to the contract between Moderna and the U.S. government as possibly allowing the Biden administration to share the vaccine technology on its own. The letter pointed to a report in The New York Times that Moderna has resisted calls from the administration to act on its own to share its technology.  

“Despite receiving huge sums of public funding from American taxpayers, Moderna has refused calls to share its technology, including from the U.S. government,” the lawmakers wrote. 

“The contract Moderna entered into with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) may give the federal government legal authority to access and share the ingredient list and manufacturing instructions for Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine,” they add. 

The letter notes that parts of the contract are redacted, and asks the administration for answers on its authorities. 

Aside from the contract with Moderna, some experts, including former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden, have called for the Biden administration to use other authorities, such as the Defense Production Act, to compel transfer of Moderna’s technology to boost vaccine manufacturing in other countries. 

The lawmakers noted that if global vaccinations lag, it gives the virus more chances to form new variants. 

“The virus continues to circulate, with an average of over 438,000 new cases reported daily, risking the evolution of new variants that have the potential to be even more infectious or deadly and, at worst, resistant to existing COVID-19 vaccines,” they write.