News Release

Public Investments in the mRNA Vaccines


A retrospective cohort study published this month in The BMJ found that 34 research grants funded by the National Institutes of Health were involved in the development of mRNA Covid-19 vaccines. Those grants totaled $31.9 billion. 

    Fremstad is the director of law and political economy and a senior advisor at the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

The study found that the U.S. government invested at least $31.9 billion to develop, produce and purchase mRNA Covid-19 vaccines, including investments made in the 30 years prior to March 2020. Given that the vaccines translated into millions of saved lives and will inform scientific research into future vaccine development, the authors also conclude that to “maximize overall health impact, policy makers should ensure equitable global access to publicly funded health technologies.” 

Fremstad said: This study on the “massive extent of public financing of Covid-19 vaccine development and production comes at the same time as the U.S. government Covid-19 vaccine supply is running out. Pharmaceutical companies have not committed to providing free or low-cost vaccines to all people in the United States, even though each dose costs only $1 to $3 to manufacture. Using public funds, the U.S. government was a pivotal investor and buyer of the Covid-19 vaccines.

    “Since the U.S. people and government made the investments and took on the risks that were needed to produce the vaccines, we also need to be the ones to direct how the value we created is used. That should include ensuring that the vaccines remain free without creating new administrative or insurance barriers to access them, pursuing an Operation Global Vaccination, and building public options to manufacture vaccines and other critical health technologies.”