When biotech company Moderna announced Tuesday that it planned to offer its workforce a chance to get vaccinated with its recently authorized Covid-19 vaccine, their decision raised some eyebrows. In addition to employees, the company said it would offer shots to its board members and the “adult household members of our team.” Moderna’s decision calls into question whether there are loopholes that will allow some people to cut the proverbial line to get their shot.
“What it appears to be is, privilege and power gaining priority access to the vaccine,” said Dr. William Moss, executive director of the International Vaccine Access Center at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Nancy Berlinger, a research scholar at The Hastings Center, a nonprofit think tank, agreed. “It’s a rather problematic example that [the vaccine] is going to go to the VIPs first rather than to rank and file. You can imagine people are watching this pretty closely,” she said.
Vaccines against Covid-19 are largely seen as a way out of a pandemic that has wreaked havoc across the globe over the last year, but at the moment they are in very scarce supply. In the United States, two – one developed by Moderna and the other by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer in partnership with BioNTech – were given Emergency Use Authorization earlier in December by the US Food and Drug Administration, and several more vaccines are in the pipeline.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 12 million doses of the two vaccines have been distributed to states so far, and nearly 2.6 million doses have actually been administered, mostly to health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities – the two groups in the CDC’s recommended-first tier for vaccine prioritization.
In a company-issued statement, Moderna explained that it is making the shot available to its workers in the United States through a voluntary and confidential program “to provide an additional layer of COVID-19 protection” because Moderna workers are conducting essential services in developing, manufacturing and delivering the vaccine.
As for the adult household members of people on the team, the rationale is “to reduce the risk of absenteeism and disruption due to a COVID-19 infection in an adult household member.”
In an email to CNN, a spokesperson for Moderna said, “We have committed specific volumes to the US Government, and we expect to meet those commitments. So these are doses beyond those commitments and sales.” He noted Moderna has approximately 1,