Have governments funded a major share of COVID-19 vaccine research and development?

Friday, March 5, 2021
By Gus Fisher

Billions of dollars of government support for COVID-19 vaccine development has taken several forms.

  • Governments have made large direct grants, including support for the makers of two approved mRNA vaccines, Moderna and BioNTech, Pfizer’s German partner.
  • The mRNA vaccines derive from U.S. government-supported basic research into coronaviruses dating back to 2003, including an $18 million grant to the University of Pennsylvania for “foundational” research.
  • Guaranteed purchases have supported companies taking on the large development risks of developing the vaccines, assuring them of recovering many costs.

Advocacy groups have said the role of public funding argues for wide, global vaccine distribution at low cost. Now the Biden administration is urging other countries to follow its lead in pledging $4 billion to COVAX, a global effort to purchase vaccines for poorer countries.

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