Moderna plans African mRNA vaccine factory as pressure grows

PUBLISHED: Thu, 07 Oct 2021 10:09:37 GMT
Josephine Mason
Reuters
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A healthcare worker fills a syringe with Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at the Giorgio Companies site in Blandon, PA where the CATE Mobile Vaccination Unit was onsite to administer Moderna COVID-19 Vaccines to workers Wednesday morning April 14, 2021. Ben Hasty | MediaNews Group | Reading Eagle via Getty Images

LONDON, Oct 7 (Reuters) – Moderna plans to invest about $500 million to build a factory in Africa to make up to 500 million doses of mRNA vaccines each year, including its COVID-19 shot, as pressure grows on the pharmaceutical industry to manufacture drugs on the continent.

Moderna’s proposed site will also include bottling and packaging capabilities. The company said it would begin the process of deciding the country and location soon.

“We expect to manufacture our COVID-19 vaccine as well as additional products within our mRNA vaccine portfolio at this facility,” CEO Stephane Bancel said in a statement on Thursday.

Read more: WHO-backed vaccine hub for Africa to copy Moderna COVID-19 shot

The move comes as a debate rages between drugmakers and governments about waiving intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines to help end the pandemic and give more developing countries access to shots after rich nations bought up most of this year’s supply.

The United States said it would support it, but the idea has faced opposition from pharmaceutical firms, which argue they need to oversee any technology transfer due to the complexity of the manufacturing process.

Pfizer and its partner BioNTech struck a deal in July for South Africa’s Biovac to help make around 100 million doses a year of their COVID-19 vaccine for Africa.

But Moderna is the first company to plan its own factory on the continent. It has supplied more than 500 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine so far.

Read more: Moderna says its Covid vaccine is 100% effective in teens, plans to seek FDA OK in early June

The company wants to “extend Moderna’s societal impact through the investment in a state-of-the-art mRNA manufacturing facility”, Bancel said.

The World Health Organization has been trying to persuade Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech to join forces with its plan for an African tech transfer hub.

A senior WHO official told Reuters last month there hadn’t been much progress in talks with Moderna.

On Wednesday, Sweden and Denmark paused the use of Moderna’s vaccine for younger age groups after reports of possible rare cardiovascular side effects and citing data from an unpublished Nordic study. The shares closed down 9% in New York on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Josephine Mason; editing by David Goodman and Mark Potter)

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