“The life of a millionaire in New York City is not worth more than the life of a person living in extreme poverty in South Sudan,” wrote Sanders.
WASHINGTON, Nov. 7 – As negotiations on new rules for addressing pandemics are underway at the World Health Organization (WHO), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, today sent a letter to Ambassador Pamela Hamamoto urging her to push for the inclusion of strong reasonable pricing, technology sharing, and access standards in the international agreement. Ambassador Hamamoto leads negotiations over the Pandemic Accord with the target date of May 2024 for an agreement to be adopted by WHO’s 194 member countries.
“Now is the time to negotiate strong global standards that put public health over profits,” wrote Sanders. “The U.S. should champion including reasonable pricing and technology sharing requirements into all funding agreements with pharmaceutical companies. That is not just the right thing to do. It is the smart thing to do to protect the American people from viruses that respect no borders.”
Sanders emphasized that the precedent set by the Biden administration’s announcement to require “reasonable pricing” for a next-generation monoclonal antibody developed by the pharmaceutical company Regeneron was a good step forward, and further action must be taken so that pharmaceutical companies cannot charge outrageous prices for products developed with taxpayer dollars.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, there were vast inequities in access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines. One study estimated that vaccine inequality cost 1.3 million lives by the end of 2021. U.S. taxpayers spent $12 billion on the research, development, and procurement of one of the leading vaccines. Yet, Moderna refused to share its technology with other manufacturers to increase global production, charged some poorer countries more for doses than wealthy countries, and then quadrupled the price of the COVID vaccine to $128 – at a time when it costs just $2.85 to manufacture that vaccine.
“The mistakes made with Moderna cannot be repeated,” Sanders continued in the letter. “A public health crisis should not be an opportunity for profiteering. We need real international cooperation and commitment to ensuring equitable access to pandemic products.”
In March of this year, Sanders held a HELP Committee hearing on Moderna COVID-19 vaccine pricing, with CEO Stéphane Bancel testifying. In September, Sanders applauded the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announcement of a new provision in the department’s contract with Regeneron to guarantee that the company’s COVID-19 treatment must be reasonably priced.
“Our goal should be to make tests, treatments, and vaccines for the next public health outbreak available to every man, woman and child who needs them as soon as possible,” Sanders wrote. “The life of a millionaire in New York City is not worth more than the life of a person living in extreme poverty in South Sudan.”
To read the full letter, click here.