Faced with the need to keep its Covid vaccine out of reach for poorer countries, Moderna said Tuesday it has agreed to sell up to 110 million vaccines to African Union member countries.
The company said it will deliver 15 million vaccinations by the end of this year and another 35 million by the end of March, offering a modest increase in supply for a continent with severe vaccine shortages and one of the lowest vaccination rates in the world. Less than 6 percent of Africans are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, and less than a third of African countries have fully vaccinated 10 percent of their population by the beginning of this month.
The New York Times reported this month that Moderna’s shots have spread almost entirely to wealthier countries. According to the latest Airfinity data, Moderna has shipped more of its doses to high-income countries than any other vaccine manufacturer.
The company also said Tuesday that it is “working on plans” to bottle doses of the Covid vaccine somewhere in the African continent as early as 2023, in addition to its plans announced this month to open a plant in Africa on an unspecified date. …
Moderna has been heavily criticized for not sharing its vaccine recipe or transferring its technology to manufacturers in poorer countries who could reach local markets.
The company has repeatedly said it cannot quickly ship more doses to countries in need because it has limited production capacity and because all of its production has been blocked this year due to existing orders from governments such as the United States and the European Union.
Thanks to a new agreement with Moderna, the African Union now has two direct vaccine supplies to its member countries. The African Union has ordered 220 million doses of one-time vaccine from Johnson & Johnson, with the option to order another 180 million. Deliveries for this order began in August.
Moderna and the African Union negotiated a potential supply deal last spring, but those negotiations fell through because Moderna could not offer doses until next year, according to two African Union officials. Negotiations resumed this month.
Moderna chief executive Stéphane Bansel said in a press release that the Biden administration helped close the deal.
Moderna has also agreed to sell over 210 million doses at an average purchase price of just under $ 10 at Covax, a United Nations-backed vaccination program for the world’s poor. A Covax spokesman said on Tuesday that the company has yet to provide any of these images.
The tens of millions of doses of Moderna that have been delivered to low- and middle-income countries have come almost exclusively from donations from the United States.
Due to a shortage of expected supplies of Covax this year, African countries are struggling to come up with alternative plans to vaccinate their populations. Countries that could afford it made bilateral deals for vaccines.