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Moderna to build Covid vax plant in Africa, enforce patents on rich nations

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Washington, March 8 (IANS) US drugmaker Moderna is set to build a Covid vaccine manufacturing plant in the low income countries in Africa, while also enforcing patents on its jab technology in rich nations.

Moderna plans to invest $500 million to produce messenger RNA, the technology underlying its Covid vaccines, at a facility in Kenya with the goal of manufacturing 500 million doses annually, CNBC reported.

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Moderna could fill Covid vaccine doses at the Kenya facility as early as 2023 subject to demand, the company has said.

The biotech company reached the agreement with the support of the US government.

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The drugmaker on Monday also announced that it now expects anyone in higher-income countries that want to use its patented technologies to respect the company’s intellectual property, the Washington Post reported.

It added that it is willing to license its patents to others in those countries on “commercially reasonable terms”, the report said.

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Earlier, Moderna faced criticism from activist groups such as Oxfam International and Doctors Without Borders for not sharing its vaccine technology with middle- and lower-income countries.

The company said in October 2020 it would not enforce Covid-related patents during the pandemic and was willing to license its vaccine after the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization in June, last year,established a mRNA technology transfer hub in South Africa to support manufacturers in low- and middle-income countries. Researchers at the hub developed microlitres of the vaccine based on Moderna’s Covid shot in February this year.

According to the WHO, Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia will be the first six countries that will receive the technology needed to produce mRNA vaccines on the African continent.

Moderna’s shot was chosen to replicate because more information on its development was available publicly, compared with Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine.

–IANS

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