Moderna's Africa Vaccine Factory: Equity Opportunity Lost

Image depicting Africa CDC's response to Moderna's decision to abandon plans for a vaccine manufacturing facility in Kenya, highlighting missed equity opportunity
Moderna's Africa Vaccine Factory: Equity Opportunity Lost

The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) has expressed disappointment and criticism towards Moderna Inc.’s decision to reconsider its plans for building a $500 million vaccine manufacturing facility in Kenya. Moderna, known for its COVID-19 vaccine, had announced the investment in October 2021 to support the production of its mRNA vaccine portfolio in Africa. However, two years later, the company has put the plans on hold, citing a decline in demand for COVID-19 vaccines on the continent.

Moderna’s Initial Commitment:

  • In March 2022, Moderna signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the government of Kenya, designating the country as the site for its mRNA factory.
  • The company stated that having a plant in Africa was important due to the prevalence of respiratory viruses and tropical diseases on the continent.
  • The facility was expected to produce up to 500 million vaccine doses annually.

Africa CDC’s Response:

  • The Africa CDC strongly criticized Moderna’s justification for putting the plans on hold, stating that blaming Africa and Africa CDC for the lack of demand for COVID-19 vaccines perpetuates the inequity that characterized the response to the pandemic.
  • The agency pointed out that while other vaccine manufacturers are progressing with their plans and construction in Africa, Moderna is abandoning its commitment to build much-needed vaccine manufacturing capacities on the continent.

Vaccine Equity and Access:

  • Africa CDC emphasized that Moderna’s decision demonstrates that the company is not genuinely committed to vaccine equity and access to vaccines through building manufacturing in Africa.
  • During the pandemic, when the African Union attempted to purchase COVID-19 vaccines, Moderna vaccines were not made available for purchase to the continent.
  • Less than 5% of the COVID-19 vaccines administered in Africa were from Moderna.

About GAVI:

  • GAVI (Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization) is a public-private global health partnership.
  • Launched in 2000 to improve access to vaccines for children in the world’s poorest countries.
  • Headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.
  • Funded by governments, private sector, and organizations like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
  • Aims to increase the use of underused and new vaccines around the world.

Importance of Local Vaccine Manufacturing:

  • Currently, only one percent of the vaccines administered in Africa are produced locally, while the remaining are imported.
  • Expanding local manufacturing of vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics is crucial for enhancing regional and global health security.
  • The African Union has set a goal for the continent to develop, produce, and supply more than 60 percent of the vaccine doses needed for the region by 2040.
  • As the Africa continent strives to become self-sustaining in vaccine production, it is essential for leading vaccine manufacturers to follow through on their commitments and support the expansion of local manufacturing capacities.

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