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White House Scientific Director on Covid-19 calls on Moderna to ‘step up’ global vaccination efforts

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As public health experts ask Moderna to increase production and distribution of its vaccine in low- and middle-income countries, or to share their proprietary technology, for some time now, the remarks of Dr David Kessler, director White House Covid-19 response team scientist – marks an escalation in the Biden administration’s public comments on the matter.

“We expect Moderna to grow stronger as a company. We expect that – we asked them, they are to strengthen as a business and join other companies, such as Pfizer, and provide COVAX (Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access, The Global Vaccine Sharing Program) with doses for AMC92 (COVAX Advanced Market Engagement for 92 Low and Middle Income Countries) at non-profit prices at a quantity – substantial doses that will help close this gap, ”Kessler said Wednesday in a report. panel with the Law and Political Economy project on world immunization.

He continued, “There is a very significant additional capacity at Moderna that has been invested. Now the question is to make this commitment at a not-for-profit price and in substantial quantities, because not to do so would be unreasonable, in my opinion. opinion.”

Kessler’s comments come after the Biden administration pledged to dramatically increase the amount of Covid-19 vaccine it will send to foreign countries next year, with President Joe Biden announcing last month that the United States would buy an additional 500 million Pfizer vaccines for lower-middle-income countries around the world in addition to the 500 million doses the United States had already pledged to share. The majority of the doses the administration has shipped overseas so far are Pfizer, although Biden announced in June that 20 million doses of a combination of Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines would be sent to the country. ‘foreigner.

Modern CEO Stéphane Bancel stated in a letter to investors last week that Moderna’s goal is to “help protect as many people as possible around the world,” noting that the company has a five-pillar strategy to increase access, including plans to build a facility production in Africa, its intention not to apply Covid -19 related patents, and to invest in its capacity to deliver an additional 1 billion doses to low-income countries in 2022. And Tuesday, Moderna announcement that COVAX has purchased an additional 176.5 million doses of its vaccine, of which 116.5 million doses are expected to be delivered in the first quarter of 2022 and 60 million doses are expected to be delivered in the second quarter of 2022.

But Dr Tom Frieden, former head of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is one of those top public health experts repeatedly calling on Pfizer and Moderna to transfer their technology to other manufacturers to increase production and distribution around the world.

“Pfizer and Moderna have made fundamental mistakes that must be corrected or their reputation for this work will be irreparably tarnished and, more importantly, millions of lives will be put at risk. First, Pfizer and Moderna focused on selling expensive doses to the wealthy. countries and have done little or nothing to increase production to meet global needs, ”Frieden said in a commentary. series of tweets earlier this month.

He continued, “This has led to the shocking and unacceptable situation we find ourselves in now. Over 6 billion doses have been administered worldwide, less than 4% to people in low-income countries. Not only is this a moral failure, it is also epidemiologically perilous, fewer people vaccinated worldwide mean that new, higher risk variants will emerge that are more contagious or elude our immunity, either through vaccines or through infection or both. ”

Kessler said on Wednesday that the Biden administration had met with several leaders at Moderna “in recent days” to pressure them on the issue.

“We can’t wait. We don’t have months to wait. I think we asked the question, we met, I’m saying it here, we met members of the Moderna board, not only the CEO, we have met the president of Moderna, the board members in the last few days. They understand what we expect, “he said.

The US government, he said, “hasn’t made a decision yet on, you know, what it will do, based on the response, but we’re waiting for the response… but I can assure you that there is full resolve on everyone in the administration to bring doses to low and middle income countries as soon as possible. ”

He praised Pfizer for its “record” and said he had “no doubt” the company would meet its own commitments to share vaccines globally at cost.

But he was much less confident in Moderna’s ability to do so, adding, “Moderna can speak for himself. We’ve had some very, very intense discussions with Moderna.”

Pressed by the panel moderator on why the administration isn’t exerting more leverage on Moderna, Kessler said, “I think these companies understand our authorities and understand that we wouldn’t be afraid to use them. But the best recourse right now is for them to step in now and make sure they provide COVAX at nonprofit prices as a substantial base to close that gap. ”

Kessler pointed to a “specific request” from the US government to do so, and warned, “They understand our authorities.”

CNN’s John Bonifield contributed to this report.

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