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Photo: Blake Nissen for The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Moderna has not been living up to contractual obligations to disclose the percentage of taxpayer dollars that are funding its coronavirus vaccine project, but the pharmaceutical company tells Axios that federal money makes up "100% funding of the program."

Why it matters: Moderna has received almost $1 billion in taxpayer grants to get its vaccine through clinical trials and is considering setting the highest price of all coronavirus vaccine candidates.

Driving the news: Moderna's contract with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, which is part of Health and Human Services, includes a provision that requires Moderna to "clearly state ... the percentage of the total costs of the program" financed with federal vs. private dollars.

  • Moderna has not done this in any of its press releases tied to its coronavirus vaccine.
  • Two consumer advocacy groups, Public Citizen and Knowledge Ecology International, are now pushing HHS to "enforce the provision in this contract and all other applicable contracts."

Between the lines: This provision is commonly called the Stevens Amendment, and it turns out the federal government has done a poor job of enforcing it, according to a Government Accountability Office report from last year.

What they're saying: HHS did not say if it issued Moderna an exemption from this provision, only saying in a response:

  • "Moderna provides the required acknowledgement to the federal government for funding and other support provided to develop the vaccine. The company would need to identify for you what percentage of this specific contract is federally funded. We continue to collaborate with companies as they put out press releases to ensure accurate information."

Moderna said in multiple responses that it "request[s] BARDA review for each of our press releases or other disclosures before we issue ... and are comfortable that the information included in our public disclosures is consistent with BARDA's expectations."

  • Moderna said the language in its original BARDA funding press release — "BARDA will fund the advancement of mRNA-1273 to FDA licensure" — "made clear the extent of BARDA's 100% funding of the program."

Go deeper

Dave Lawler, author of World
Nov 12, 2020 - World

As countries line up for Russia's vaccine, not everyone is buying it

"Trust me. It's safe." Photo: Alexy Nikolsky/Sputnik/AFP via Getty

Not to be outdone by Pfizer’s big announcement, Russia’s state-run Gamaleya Research Institute announced Wednesday that its Sputnik V vaccine is 92% effective.

Why it matters: Experts have criticized the lack of transparency around the vaccine and the haste with which the Kremlin approved it, but several countries are lining up to gain access.

Nov 12, 2020 - Health

The trickiest vaccine launch in U.S. history

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Even if the federal government manages to secure the cash needed for COVID-19 vaccine distribution — and that's a big if — there's still a huge task ahead at the state level.

Why it matters: America has never attempted to vaccinate so many people on such short notice, with so many lives on the line.