Moderna aims to set up $500 million vaccine plant in Africa

The drugmaker plans to invest about $500 million to produce half a billion MRNA vaccines yearly.

Moderna plans to invest up to $500 million to build a factory in Africa that will produce up to 500 million doses of mRNA vaccines each year, including its COVID-19 vaccine, as pressure mounts on the pharmaceutical industry to manufacture drugs on the continent. For months, African countries and the World Health Organization (WHO) have urged drugmakers to build vaccine facilities on the continent to help get supplies of COVID-19 vaccines that have been hoarded by wealthier nations. Moderna’s proposed site is expected to include drug substance manufacturing as well as bottling and packaging capabilities. “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.

The company also said it would begin working on site selection soon. The move comes as the debates continue to rage between pharma companies and governments about waiving intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines to help end the global pandemic and give more developing countries access to jabs. Pfizer and BioNTech struck a deal in July this year for South Africa’s Biovac to produce about 100 million doses a year of their COVID-19 vaccine for Africa. However, Moderna is the first company to plan its own factory on the continent which will produce the active mRNA ingredients for vaccines. As of October 18th, only about 4.96% of the continent’s population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data retrieved from the Africa CDC.