Leaked Memo: Moderna CEO Responds to COVID-19 Vaccine Access Criticism – Business Insider

  • In a memo Insider obtained, Moderna’s CEO rebuked criticism of its vaccine supply to poorer nations.
  • The memo came after a US official, Dr. David Kessler, said he expected Moderna to “step up.”
  • “We are now criticized for doing what we promised,” CEO Stéphane Bancel wrote to employees.

Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel on Friday defended his company from mounting criticism of its vaccine distribution to poorer countries.

In an internal memo sent on Friday to Moderna employees and obtained by Insider, Bancel said the $135 billion biotech was being inaccurately portrayed as prioritizing rich nations in supplying its shot. Moderna confirmed the authenticity of the memo.

“It may feel unfair that we are now criticized for doing what we promised, and some of those voices may be disingenuous,” Bancel said in the memo. “But those voices are a distraction from the work we are still here to do.”

In recent weeks, the White House, lawmakers, and activists have accused the biotech of not doing enough to make its COVID-19 vaccine available to the poorest countries.

Moderna and several other drug companies have agreed to work with Covax, a global plan to secure vaccine doses for poorer countries, to supply vaccines at reduced costs.

But Moderna has shipped far fewer doses to low-income nations than other vaccine developers, The New York Times reported over the weekend.

Dr. David Kessler, the chief scientific officer for the White House’s COVID-19 response team, said on Thursday that Moderna had additional capacity to produce vaccine doses.

“We expect that Moderna will step up as a company,” Kessler said.

The vaccine is Moderna’s first and only commercial product. The biotech made $4 billion, after expenses, in the first half of 2021.

Bancel said in the memo that Moderna worked with the US government to supply 50 million doses to Covax but was constrained by promises it made to other buyers.

Bancel said the company would step up its deliveries to Covax. It plans to ship 34 million doses by the end of 2021 and an additional 116 million doses in the first three months of 2022.

A scientist at Moderna works on research at the biotech's R&D hub in Norwood, Massachusetts
A scientist at Moderna working on research at the biotech’s R&D hub in Norwood, Massachusetts.
Franco Sacchi/Insider

Read the full letter Bancel sent to Moderna staff:

Dear Moderna team,

Over the past several days, you have probably seen a narrative in the press that inaccurately portrays our efforts to fight the pandemic, and to provide for global access of our vaccine.

You deserve better. Or at least you deserve an honest accounting of your contributions. This letter is my small attempt to do you that justice. 

I know that most of you have worked nonstop for the past two years, through nights and weekends, birthdays, weddings and funerals. There will never be a full accounting of your sacrifices: the costs at home, the burden on your marriages and families, the toll on personal health. And now you’re being asked to bear more.

But for a moment, let’s celebrate the simple truth.

Our small company of 2,000 very special, highly trained and unbelievably committed people has produced more than 500 million doses of vaccine to fight the pandemic through this summer. The numbers hide the humanity. That’s roughly 250,000 vaccine doses per person at Moderna. The closest comparator I know of is companies that have made 20,000 doses of vaccine per person. No one can claim to have done more.

One year ago, when we told the world we thought we could make 500 million doses, few believed us. The entire pharmaceutical industry makes 500 million doses of flu vaccine each year; who were we?

But we knew the truth about how we had prepared. That in the 10 years before the pandemic we had created the field of mRNA-LNP viral vaccines. We were the only company that had shown the potential of mRNA-LNP vaccines in humans. We had gone 9-for-9 in early clinical trials against different viruses. We had raised and invested $2.5 billion to invent and prove the technology. And we had built our own factory from the ground up in Massachusetts from 2017 to 2019. We had been preparing for 2020 our whole life. So, we stepped forward and said we could make 500 million to 1 billion doses in a year…from zero in 2019.

Of course, we didn’t do this alone. We would not have succeeded without the incredible work of our partners and suppliers. They are equal heroes. We also needed the financial support of so many. To develop the vaccine and build a 500 million dose supply chain from scratch took $5 billion in 2020. That included $2.9 billion of deposits on vaccine orders from government customers ($601 million from the U.S.), $1.9 billion raised in 2020 from new investors, and $210 million of reimbursement from BARDA for development. That financial support – from the private sector and governments across the globe – was what allowed you to achieve the impossible over the past year.

One of the hardest things about the recent criticism is that we have worked to keep our promises. Nearly every dose we made – all 500+ million and counting – has gone to the governments that purchased from us last year. Those that took a chance on us. It may feel unfair that we are now criticized for doing what we promised, and some of those voices may be disingenuous. But those voices are a distraction from the work we are still here to do. We must focus on those who are still suffering and do not yet have our vaccine. It is for them that we are scaling our manufacturing to 2+ billion doses in 2022.

You should always be asking yourself if we are doing the right thing. It’s a fair question and I want you to have the information you need to decide for yourself.

My letter last week outlined the five pillars of our strategy to improve access in low-income countries. We entered into our agreement with COVAX in May 2021 to supply up to 500 million doses to low-income countries, of which 210 million doses have been ordered for delivery through next spring. Because of the promises we made to others, we couldn’t deliver any of these doses before Q4 of this year, but we worked hard to get doses to COVAX sooner through other avenues, partnering with the U.S. government and other countries to enable donations of 50 million doses to COVAX through September. We will deliver another 34 million doses to COVAX this quarter — this time directly from Moderna. Together, that would be approximately 10% of our overall supply for this year. And the 116 million doses we will deliver to COVAX in the first quarter of 2022 will be approximately 20% of our expected supply in that quarter. I wish we could do more and faster but I think we can all be proud of what we have done.

Finally, the fight is not over; so, we must continue to find ways to care for each other. I know the toll it takes to hear chants and protests outside our doors — from those angry we made a vaccine to those angry we haven’t made enough yet — and how hard it can be to come to work every day during a pandemic. We will make any investment we can think of to support you, but the most important thing is that we must support each other. We are not in this alone. We need to find ways to relieve the burden on those of us who have borne the most weight. For those who cannot help directly, continue to help in any way you can. It is a lot to ask you to keep going until we have made 1 million doses per person, but we must. We can protect another billion lives.

And it will get better. Yesterday, we got a step closer to making it just a little easier thanks to the unanimous vote at FDA’s VRBPAC in support of our EUA amendment for a 50 µg booster dose. The lower dose will allow us to provide up to 1 billion additional doses of booster to the world in 2022.

None of this would be possible without you. I am humbled every day by your commitment. On behalf of so many: thank you for what you have done. It was impossible. And thank you for what you will do in the coming months to help vanquish this pandemic everywhere. It will be no less historic.

Cheers,

Stephane

Sorgente articolo:
Leaked Memo: Moderna CEO Responds to COVID-19 Vaccine Access Criticism – Business Insider

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