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Africa CDC lambasts Moderna for halting Kenyan vaccine plant

Image: koto_feja, via Getty images

Blaming Africa for low demand perpetuates vaccine inequity, says African health body

The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has accused the mRNA vaccine manufacturer Moderna of “abandoning” its commitment to Africa after the company said it was “pausing” plans for a vaccine manufacturing facility in Kenya.

In a statement on 15 April, the Africa CDC criticised Moderna’s announcement, made four days earlier, that a drop in demand for Covid-19 vaccines on the continent made the planned facility financially unviable for now.

Moderna said it had not received any Covid-19 vaccine orders for Africa since 2022. Added to the cancellation of previous orders, this has resulted in “more than US$1 billion in losses and write-downs” for the company, it said.

But the Africa CDC argued that to “blame Africa” for the lack of demand for Covid-19 vaccines “only serves to perpetuate the inequity that characterised the response to the Covid-19 pandemic”.

Lingering inequity

In its statement, the Africa CDC said that Moderna vaccines were not made available during the pandemic when the African Union acquired 400 million vaccines from other manufacturers, despite attempts to purchase the Moderna mRNA vaccine.

“In fact, less than 5 per cent of the Covid-19 vaccines administered in Africa were from Moderna,” it said, adding that Africa’s vaccines were delivered “long after vaccines were made available to the developed world”.

Moderna’s action shows a lack of commitment to vaccine equity and access, the Africa CDC said. Other vaccine manufacturers are progressing with their plans to build plants in Africa, it added.

In February, the International Vaccine Institute announced that it would open an office in Kenya to boost local vaccine manufacture. The institute has 39 member countries and collaborates with the World Health Organization on vaccine delivery, costs and safety.

‘Prudent’ decision

Defending its decision, Moderna said it was working on other vaccines that would benefit Africans, including for HIV and malaria. However, since research is still in the early stages, pausing plans for a manufacturing facility in Kenya is “prudent”.

Moderna said that it intends to meet African vaccine demands and ensure equitable access through its existing global network, but it added a legal disclaimer that such “forward-looking statements” are not promises or guarantees.