Thu. May 19th, 2022

  • Moderna will invest up to $ 500 million. In plant, location is unclear
  • Plant to make the company’s COVID-19 vaccine, other mRNA shoots
  • Only 4.5% of Africans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19

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

African countries and the World Health Organization (WHO) have for several months called on drug manufacturers to set up vaccine plants on the continent to help it secure supplies of COVID-19 shoots that have been hoisted up by wealthy nations.

As of Thursday, only about 4.5% of Africans had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the continent’s top public health official, John Nkengasong.

Modernas’ (MRNA.O) proposed website is expected to include the manufacture of medicines as well as bottling and packaging. The US drug maker said it would soon begin the process of deciding country and location.

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

Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said he had not seen the Moderna statement and the company had not consulted with him.

At a press conference, he welcomed any efforts to meet the continent’s medium- to long-term needs, but said Modern’s plans would not solve the problems of securing COVID-19 vaccine doses now.

Bartholomew Akanmori, a vaccination regulation officer at the WHO office in Africa, said the WHO hoped that Moderna’s plant would help with diseases of public health interest other than COVID-19, which had not yet received support for research and development.

A healthcare professional holds a vial of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at a pop-up vaccination site run by SOMOS Community Care during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA, 29 January, 2021. REUTERS / Mike Segar / File Photo

The modern-day move comes as a debate rages between drug machines and governments about renouncing intellectual property rights to COVID-19 vaccines to help end the pandemic and give more developing countries access to gunfire. Read more

The United States said it would support a waiver, but the idea has been the subject of opposition from pharmaceutical companies, who say they should monitor any technology transfer due to the complexity of the manufacturing process.

POTENTIAL PLACES

Potential candidates to host Moderna’s African plant include South Africa, Rwanda and Senegal, health experts say, although a senior South African official involved in an attempt to increase local vaccine production said he was unaware of the Moderna announcement. South Africa’s health department did not respond to a request for comment.

In July, Pfizer (PFE.N) and its partner BioNTech (22UAy.DE) entered into an agreement with South Africa’s Biovac to help make about 100 million doses a year of their COVID-19 vaccine to Africa. BioNTech said in August that it was investigating building malaria and tuberculosis vaccine production sites using mRNA technology in Rwanda and Senegal. Read more

WHO has sought to persuade Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech to join forces with its plan for an African technical transfer hub. But a senior WHO official told Reuters last month that there had been no major progress in negotiations with Moderna. Read more

Nkengasong said he hoped Moderna would work on an initiative called Partnerships for African Vaccine Manufacturing, launched this year, which looks at Africa’s needs at the continental level.

“Ten countries in Africa have expressed interest in vaccine production, (we) can actually bring them all together and put Moderna at the center of it … It would really talk about the need to be transparent and also … coordinate our efforts,” he said.

On Wednesday, Sweden and Denmark stopped the use of Moderna’s vaccine for younger age groups after reports of possible rare cardiovascular side effects and cited data from an unpublished Nordic study. Its shares closed 9% on Wednesday. Read more

Josephine Mason reported from London and Maggie Fick from Nairobi Further reporting by Alexander Winning in Johannesburg Editing by Mark Potter and Edmund Blair

Our standards: Thomson Reuters trust principles.

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