Some Operation Warp Speed 3rd-party contracts lack consumer protections, HHS release shows

HHS released several documents Nov. 8 detailing some of its deals made through Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration’s program to expedite development of COVID-19 vaccine and therapeutics, NPR reported.

The contracts released include the program’s $1 billion agreement with Johnson & Johnson to buy 100 million doses of its experimental COVID-19 vaccine, but the contract was issued through a third-party firm and lacks customary protections against price-gouging, NPR reported. 

The contracts were all issued through Advanced Technology International, a third-party firm that uses a nontraditional contracting mechanism called an “other transaction agreement,” according to NPR. Members of Congress have expressed concern over HHS’ partnership with the firm, stating that the contracts could leave out taxpayer protections and that they wouldn’t be subject to public records requests because they were made through a third party. 

Johnson & Johnson’s contract does not include so-called “march-in rights” which would allow the government to intervene if the vaccine maker fails to make its product or charges an unreasonable price, NPR reported. March-in rights are typical in contracts for federally funded inventions. 

Regeneron also released its contract with Advanced Technology International that revealed similar terms as Johnson & Johnson’s. 

HHS also released a version of its $1.5 billion contract with Moderna that includes fewer redactions than a previously disclosed version. 

In a statement to NPR, HHS said: “Operation Warp Speed has long publicly stated its commitment to being as transparent as possible. These contracts are being posted after the appropriate review and are proof of that commitment to transparency, as is the additional review and reposting of the Moderna contract with fewer redactions. As we have said before, the government will continue to monitor what is releasable over time as part of this commitment to transparency.”

Read the full article here.

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