Moderna hearing on Capitol Hill is ‘more like a show trial,’ says U.S. Senator

Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel testified on Capitol Hill yesterday during a hearing that one U.S. Senator compared to a “show trial” and “public shaming” of the biotech company that developed a COVID-19 vaccine that saved trillions of dollars and millions of lives.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing, “Taxpayers Paid Billions For It: So Why Would Moderna Consider Quadrupling the Price of the COVID Vaccine?” featured Bancel as well as legal and medical experts who faced questions from both sides of the aisle.

Committee Chair Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) began the hearing by expressing his appreciation for Bancel appearing “voluntarily,” but in the next breath, shamed the pharmaceutical industry for what he called an “unprecedented level of corporate greed.”

As we previously reported, as the U.S. moves from a government-driven COVID vaccine market to a commercial market, Moderna had indicated that the price could be around $130 per dose to account for new costs to the company and the value of the vaccine to society. However, Moderna has committed to providing to low-income or uninsured patients at no out-of-pocket cost.

“Now frankly, this presumes guilt in its title before we have learned,” countered Ranking Member (and physician) Bill Cassidy (R-LA) in his opening remarks. “This is more like a show trial and a public shaming than a fact-finding mission.”



‘Innovations like our vaccine can only happen in America’

“Innovations like our vaccine can only happen in America,” said Bancel.

While the government provided $1.7 billion in funding to develop the vaccine as part of Operation Warp Speed, he added that Moderna returned more than $2.9 billion in the form of discounts.

This doesn’t account for the value of the vaccine to the economy and society. According to research by the Commonwealth Fund, the first two years of the U.S. vaccination program prevented 18.5 million hospitalizations, saved 3.2 million lives, and over $1 trillion in economic value.

However, the trial “sends a hostile signal,” Sen. Cassidy cautioned, that does not bode well for future investment by the pharmaceutical industry.



“This is not the time to discuss eliminating intellectual property rights or destroying the business models of those whom our country will need to respond to the next pandemic or develop the next life-changing cure,” continued Sen. Cassidy.

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) compared the U.S. pandemic response to countries like China and Russia.

“Did they come up with a vaccine that saved lives? No, no, they didn’t,” he said. “It is a stark demonstration of the comparison between free enterprise and socialism, and free enterprise works and socialism doesn’t when it comes to saving our lives.” 

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