WASHINGTON, D.C. March 9, 2022 – A new report from PrEP4All, Public Citizen and Partners In Health lays out a vision for public ownership of the billion dose mRNA vaccine manufacturing capacity included in the President’s National Covid-19 Preparedness Plan last week. The Government Owned Contractor Operated (GOCO) model envisioned in the report is the same the Departments of Energy and Defense use for the research and production of national security assets.
“The U.S. has lost trillions of dollars and nearly a million lives to a pandemic, but still does not have the capacity to rapidly respond to new threats with new technologies. A public facility would give the government freedom to make decisions regarding supply, price and global cooperation,” said Peter Maybarduk, access to medicines director at Public Citizen. “The alternative is to repeat early pandemic mistakes and allow pharmaceutical corporations to make these life-and-death decisions, controlling in secrecy the publicly-funded medical tools needed to end pandemics.”
“The Biden Administration’s current approach to building additional mRNA vaccine capacity – critical to this nation’s biosecurity – is deeply flawed,” said James Krellenstein, Executive Director of PrEP4All. “Simply investing taxpayer dollars into facilities that government neither owns nor can directly oversee will repeat the same mistakes that have plagued the U.S. Government’s pandemic preparedness efforts for 30 years. It didn’t work when the Obama Administration invested hundreds of millions of dollars in Emergent, and it didn’t work when the Biden administration invested over $100 million in Merck. How much taxpayer money does this administration need to waste before it learns it lesson?”
The new report illustrates that with an investment of approximately $550 million, the U.S. could establish a facility with three to seven production lines capable of producing one billion doses of mRNA vaccine within six months. Establishing such a facility under the GOCO model would give the government the flexibility, oversight and control needed to address the coronavirus pandemic and future biological threats, says the report. It also would address six inherent vulnerabilities with the contractor owned, contractor operated model, such as limited competition, stranded assets, and originator lock-in.
“The contractor owned model has produced numerous failures both before and during the Covid pandemic,” said Garrett Wilkinson, Government Relations and Policy Officer at Partners In Health. “When private companies own government-financed manufacturing facilities, they can sell these facilities, leave the market, or charge the U.S. government to reserve capacity in the facilities the U.S. itself paid for. The smarter approach would be for the U.S. government to own the vaccine manufacturing assets the public pays for, and then pay private sector partners to operate them.”
PrEP4All, Public Citizen and Partners In Health previously called on the administration to ensure that domestic mRNA COVID vaccine manufacturing capacity be publicly owned.