Moderna names Kenya for $500m vaccine factory

STORY: Moderna has picked Kenya as the location for its first mRNA vaccine factory in Africa and said it expects to invest $500m.

Last year the American pharmaceuticals company revealed plans to build a facility on the continent with the aim of pumping out 500 million doses, including COVID-19 shots, every year.

That announcement came amid growing pressure on big pharma to do more to manufacture vaccines in lower income countries.

Rwanda, Senegal and South Africa had been touted as potential locations.

But on Monday (March 7) Moderna said it had entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Kenyan government.

The company said the facility would focus on drug substance manufacturing but could also be expanding to include fill/finish and packaging capabilities.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said Kenya and the entire continent had been "left behind" in the early stages of the pandemic "not because of want, but because of lack".

Moderna, he said, had come to fill that space.

There have been several efforts in recent months to help the continent produce its own vaccines using the advanced mRNA technology.

The World Health Organization last year set up a tech transfer hub in South Africa and in February the WHO-backed Afrigen Biologics said it had made its own version of Moderna's shot.

BioNTech, which teamed up with Pfizer to make the West's most widely-used COVID-19 vaccine, has also announced plans to begin work on its mRNA manufacturing facility in the African Union this year.