Drugmaker Moderna said Tuesday it will make up to 110 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine available to the African Union as the company faces pressure to reach beyond wealthier countries.
The Massachusetts firm said 15 million doses will be sent before the end of the year and the rest through the first half of 2022. It also said the Biden administration played a role in the arrangement, which will provide the doses at the company’s lowest-tiered price.
“We are pleased to be able to supply our vaccine to the African Union through this agreement, which was facilitated in part by the White House team. This is the first step in our long-term partnership with the African Union,” Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said. “We recognize that access to COVID-19 vaccines continues to be a challenge in many parts of the world and we remain committed to helping to protect as many people as possible around the globe.”
Moderna’s vaccine uses messenger RNA technology that teaches the body to detect and combat the virus. It is given in two doses, meaning 110 million doses is enough for 55 million people.
The memorandum of understanding to provide the doses comes after The New York Times reported most of the company’s doses went to wealthier countries. The company told the outlet it had limiting manufacturing and the first round of doses were secured by the U.S. and European Union.
While the U.S. and European Union have vaccination rates of 57% and 64%, respectively, less than 6% of the African continent’s population is fully vaccinated.
The U.S. also recently made a half-dose booster of the Moderna vaccine available to millions of Americans.
Fewer than a third of Africa’s countries had reached the 10% vaccination mark as of the start of October, according to the World Health Organization.
Moderna on Tuesday also said it will provide 500 million doses of its vaccine through COVAX, a global vaccine-sharing program, through 2022 and is working to start filling doses of its vaccine in Africa by 2023 in parallel to constructing a manufacturing facility on the continent.
The African Union also purchased 220 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine with the option to purchase 180 million more.