FILE PHOTO: Vial and sryinge are seen in front of displayed Moderna logo

Moderna greenlights new vaccine facility in Kenya, its first in Africa

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Moderna signed a memorandum of understanding with Kenya’s government on Monday for the drugmaker’s first mRNA vaccine manufacturing facility in Africa, the company said.

The goal is to produce up to 500 million doses of vaccines a year for the African continent, Moderna said in a statement. The focus is on drug substance manufacturing, it said, though the facility could be expanded to include fill-and-finish work.

“In parallel, Moderna is also working on plans to allow it to fill doses of its COVID-19 vaccine in Africa as early as 2023, subject to demand,” the company said.

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The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the huge need for vaccine manufacturing on the African continent, which remains the least-vaccinated region in the world against the coronavirus. The continent relies on imports for about 99% of its vaccine needs, the World Health Organization has said.

Frustrated by richer nations’ vaccine hoarding, African leaders joined together to pursue the goal of bringing more vaccine manufacturing to the continent of 1.3 billion people.

In October, Senegal and Rwanda signed an agreement with BioNTech for the construction of its first start-to-finish factories to make messenger RNA vaccines in Africa.

The novel mRNA process uses the genetic code for the spike protein of the coronavirus and is thought to trigger a better immune response than traditional vaccines. Scientists hope the technology, which is easier to scale up than traditional vaccine methods, might ultimately be used to make vaccines against other diseases, including malaria.