Africa CDC faults Moderna decision on Kenya vaccine plant

Covid vaccine

Covid-19 mRNA vaccine production platform. Moderna put Kenya plant plans on hold as Covid vaccine demand slumps.

Photo credit: File | AFP

The African CDC has faulted US biotech firm Moderna for halting its plans to set up a vaccine manufacturing plant in Kenya.

In a statement released on Monday, the African CDC expressed disappointment at Moderna's move, claiming that Covid-19 vaccines were delivered to Africa late, long after they were made available to developed countries.

This delay, it said, had a significant impact on the course of the pandemic and the demand for vaccines.

Moderna cited reduced demand for Covid-19 vaccines in Africa as the reason for its decision. This was even though the plant had said it would produce vaccines beyond Covid-19.

This move is now threatening the country's plan to boost local production and upscale its preparedness to tackle future pandemics.

"The Africa CDC recalls the considerable efforts made by Africa to gain timely access to vaccines as member States of the Union considered vaccines to be the most effective means of responding to the pandemic. Through their heads of State and Government, the AU [African Union] and the Africa CDC called for equitable and timely access to and receipt of vaccines. A call that in many cases has gone unanswered by the international community and industry," Africa CDC said in the statement.

It claimed that Moderna entered the African Covid-19 vaccine market late.

"When the AU's African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT) finally managed to acquire 400 million Covid-19 vaccines from manufacturers for the continent, none were from Moderna, simply because Moderna vaccines were not made available despite attempts to purchase them," the Africa CDC said, adding that less than five percent of the Covid-19 vaccines administered in Africa were from Moderna.

"Therefore, to blame Africa and Africa CDC for the lack of demand for Covid-19 vaccines, and therefore the reason for shelving plans to manufacture vaccines in Africa, only serves to perpetuate the inequity that has characterised the response to the Covid-19 pandemic," it added.

Last year, the Ministry of Health announced that the country had not achieved Maturity Level 3 (ML3) status from the Pharmacies and Poisons Board to allow the Moderna vaccine facility to manufacture vaccines.

ML3 is the mark of a stable, well-functioning, and integrated regulatory system, according to the World Health Organisation, which increases a country's local pharmaceutical growth and enables it to tap into a huge market.

In March 2022, Kenya signed a memorandum of understanding with the Boston-based company to produce up to 500 million vaccine doses a year, with a focus on API manufacturing.

However, Moderna revealed last week that it has not received any vaccine orders for Africa since 2022, and is facing the cancellation of previous orders, resulting in more than $1 billion in losses and write-downs.

The Africa CDC has, however, maintained it would continue to advocate and support the establishment of a strong local vaccine manufacturing ecosystem as part of its continental vision to produce 60 percent of vaccines, therapeutics, and other medical products by 2040.

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