Moderna will provide up to 500 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine to COVAX, the U.N.-backed program that provides shots to people in low-and middle-income countries by the end of 2022. The announcement comes days after the World Health Organization (WHO) added the two-dose jab to the list for emergency use, marking the fifth vaccine to receive such authorization.
“I am grateful to our Gavi and COVAX partners for their tireless work and to the entire Moderna team for their collaboration to reach this agreement,” Stephane Bancel, Moderna CEO, said in a statement posted to the company’s website on Monday. “This is an important milestone as we work to ensure that people around the world have access to our COVID-19 vaccine. We recognize that many countries have limited resources to access COVID-19 vaccines. 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 with our mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.”
Last week, Moderna had announced investment initiatives to expand global supply capacity to up to 3 billion doses in 2022, and raised its 2021 manufacturing supply forecast to between 800 million to 1 billion doses.
The first allotment of vaccine are expected to be delivered at the end of the year, but the vast majority, approximately 466 million, will be sent in 2022. The COVAX program is also getting a boost from Sweden, who announced that it would donate 1 million AstraZeneca shots.
“Sweden’s announcement that it will share 1 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines with COVAX is a superb gesture that must be replicated urgently, and repeatedly, by governments around the world to accelerate the equitable rollout of vaccines globally,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, said in a statement Monday. “Such support will ensure that people in vulnerable countries, especially in Africa, will be able to receive their second doses through the COVAX initiative. Sweden’s most generous support is very timely as it comes at a time when the world needs it most.”
The program was dealt a blow in supply issues in recent weeks when India, a major producer of the AstraZeneca jab, banned exports as it turned its attention to the crisis at home. Tedros said the program “urgently needs” 20 million doses it had expected to receive in the second quarter of 2021. It is not clear when India may resume shipments as it faces supply shortages and vaccine demand among its own population. The U.S. has pledged to send raw materials to India to help with vaccine production efforts, oxygen, personal protective equipment and other supplies needed to combat the devastating surge.
“We are very pleased to sign this new agreement with Moderna, giving COVAX Facility participants access to yet another highly efficacious vaccine,” Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, said in a news release. “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. This agreement is a further step in that direction.”