Moderna to build vaccine manufacturing plant in Africa

Moderna Inc. plans to spend up to $ 500 million to build a new manufacturing facility in Africa to deliver doses of its Covid-19 vaccine and potential additional vaccines to a continent struggling with a shortage.

The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based pharmaceutical company announced Thursday that it will build a state-of-the-art facility that could produce up to 500 million doses of vaccine per year, using its gene-based technology, known as d ‘Messenger RNA.

Moderna’s only current product is its Covid-19 vaccine, but the company is developing other vaccines against Zika, influenza, cytomegalovirus and other pathogens that could be made in the factory and meet demand by Africa.

The initial doses of vaccine from this new African plant would not be taken into account in the current pandemic emergency. Completion of the plant’s construction and validation will likely take two to four years, CEO Stéphane Bancel said in an interview.

Moderna and other Covid-19 vaccine makers have come under fire for not doing more to make the doses available to low-income countries, including those in Africa, where vaccination rates are low.

The bulk of Moderna’s short-term supply goes to the wealthier countries, including the United States, Japan, and European countries.

Some advocacy groups, including Public Citizen, have called on Moderna and U.S. officials to share the company’s Covid-19 vaccine technology with other countries so they can manufacture doses for their populations.

Mr Bancel said there have been inequalities in global access to Covid-19 vaccines, and “we want to be able to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”

Moderna is currently manufacturing its Covid-19 vaccine at its plant in Norwood, Massachusetts, which helps supply the United States, as is an entrepreneur’s plant in New Hampshire. The entrepreneur, Lonza Group, also manufactures the vaccine at a plant in Switzerland to supply countries outside the United States.

Moderna expects to manufacture up to one billion doses of its Covid-19 vaccine for global use this year, and then potentially triple production to three billion next year.

Among African countries, Moderna has a contract to deliver doses of the Covid-19 vaccine to Botswana. In addition, the US government has included Moderna in vaccine donations to other countries, including Nigeria.

In addition, Moderna has agreed to provide up to 500 million doses of its vaccine to an international program, Covax, which distributes doses of the vaccine to low-income countries, including those in Africa.

Some 34 million of those Moderna doses are expected to be delivered to Covax by the end of this year, with the rest to be delivered in 2022.

Moderna did not select the African country to build the plant. Mr Bancel said the company had a shortlist of around five people, which he did not identify. Moderna assesses countries based on their political stability, the quality of their workforce, and access to the materials needed for manufacturing, he said.

The company’s plan to build a factory in Africa is part of a larger effort to expand its internal capacity globally. In August, the company announced plans to build a factory in Canada, as part of a deal with the Canadian government, to manufacture mRNA vaccines.

Mr. Bancel said the company also wants to build factories in Europe, Australia and Asia, and he expects the company to eventually have five to ten factories around the world.

This story was posted from a feed with no text editing

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