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Covax strikes deal to buy 500 million doses of Moderna jabs

By People Daily
Tuesday, May 4th, 2021
A shipment of Covid-19 vaccines distributed by the Covax Facility arrives in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, on February 25. Photo/COURTESY
In summary
    • Covax has so far shipped more than 49 million Covid-19 vaccine doses globally to 121 participating economies.
    • The Moderna jab is already in use in 46 territories around the world, according to an AFP count.

The Covax global  programme, which has relied heavily on AstraZeneca vaccines, said on Monday it has struck a deal to buy 500 million doses of Moderna’s Covid-19 jabs.

The doses will broaden out the portfolio of vaccines under Covax, which seeks to ensure poor countries have equitable access to vaccines to combat the pandemic. 

The announcement is good news for countries like Kenya, which received the  first batch of the Astra-Zeneca vaccine on March 3, but the programme was thrown into disarray after India banned export of the vaccine.

The quandary, however, will be eased with the new Moderna doses.

Moderna is expected to start supplying Covax in the final quarter of 2021, with 34 million doses available before the end of the year, the Covax scheme’s co-leader Gavi announced in a statement. A further 466 million doses of the two-shot vaccine will follow in 2022.

Highly efficacious

Covax is co-led by the World Health Organization (WHO), the Gavi Vaccine  Alliance and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).

“We are very pleased to sign this new agreement with Moderna, giving Covax facility participants access to yet another highly efficacious vaccine,” said Gavi chief executive Seth Berkley.

“Expanding and having a diverse portfolio has always been a core goal for Covax, and to remain adaptable in the face of this continually evolving pandemic -- including the rising threat posed by new variants.”

The deal also contains options for potential access to future versions adapted to variants of the virus.

Under Covax, the cost of vaccines for the 92 poorest participating economies is covered by donors.

The scheme aims to distribute enough doses to jab up to 27 percent of the population in those territories by the end of 2021.

Dozens of wealthier participating countries also buy vaccine supply through the facility with collective purchasing.

Limited resources

The UN health agency signed off on the Moderna product on Friday, making the US vaccine the fourth jab to be given WHO’s emergency listing after Pfizer-BioNTech, Janssen and AstraZeneca doses made in India and South Korea.

Only AstraZeneca and some Pfizer jabs are currently flowing through the Covax scheme.

“We recognise that many countries have limited resources to access Covid-19 vaccines,” said Moderna chief executive Stephane Bancel, welcoming the agreement.

“We support Covax’s mission to ensure broad, affordable and equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines and we remain committed to doing everything that we can to ending this ongoing pandemic.”

Moderna said last week it expected to produce up to three billion doses in 2022 through new funding commitments to boost supply at manufacturing sites in Europe and the United States.

Covax’s main supplier is the Serum Institute of India, which is producing AstraZeneca vaccines. But increased demand for doses in India itself, where the pandemic is raging, has interrupted supplies being flown out for Covax.

The programme has also been elbowed out of the market by rich countries striking deals with manufacturers and surging ahead in immunising their citizens.  —AFP