Moderna halts plans to set up its first mRNA vaccine manufacturing plant in Africa

By Wycliffe Nyamasege
On 12 April 2024 at 01:07

Moderna, an American pharmaceutical and biotechnology company, has put on hold plans to set up an mRNA manufacturing facility in Kenya, which would have been its first such plant in Africa, citing dwindling demand for the COVID-19 vaccine.

In a statement, Moderna said the demand in Africa for COVID-19 vaccines has declined and is insufficient to support the viability of the factory.

As a result, the firm said it had suffered $1 billion in losses and write-downs due to cancellation of previous orders.

“Moderna has not received any vaccine orders for Africa since 2022 and has faced the cancellation of previous orders, resulting in more than $1 billion in losses and write-downs," Moderna stated.

Despite the setbacks, Moderna affirmed its commitment to ensuring equitable access and meeting the emerging demands from African nations for its COVID-19 vaccine using its global manufacturing network.

Moderna also noted that the suspension would allow the company to better align its infrastructure investments with the evolving healthcare needs and vaccine demand in Africa, including ongoing efforts to develop HIV and malaria vaccines.

“Moderna is actively working on the development of public health vaccines, including those for diseases that predominantly affect the African continent, such as HIV and malaria. These initiatives are part of our broader commitment to help address global health challenges through our innovative mRNA technology.

“However, these investigational vaccines are at an early development stage. Given this, and in alignment with our strategic planning, Moderna believes it is prudent to pause its efforts to build an mRNA manufacturing facility in Kenya,” Moderna stated.

The firm announced plans to invest about $500 million (Rwf640 billion) in the Kenyan facility in early 2022 and hoped to supply as many as 500 million doses of mRNA vaccines to the continent annually.

Moderna’s deal with the Kenyan government was expected to increase access to vaccines, aimed at addressing concerns about Africa lagging behind other regions in vaccinating its citizens throughout the pandemic.

"We all know the challenges that Kenya and the entire continent of Africa went through in the earlier stages of this pandemic that resulted in Africa being left behind. Not because of want but because of lack and Moderna has come to fill that space," Kenya’s former President Uhuru Kenyatta said months before his retirement.

Moderna has halted plans to set up its first mRNA vaccine manufacturing plant in Africa.