Moderna to bring first mRNA factory to Kenya

March 8, 2022

Moderna is expanding its mRNA factories to Africa, starting with Kenya.

With the assistance of the U.S. government, the COVID vaccine superstar has inked a deal with the government of the Republic of Kenya to build a state-of-the-art $500 million facility that will focus on drug substance manufacturing. The drugmaker says the facility could also be expanded to include fill/finish and packaging capabilities at the site.

According to Moderna, the facility could churn out up to 500 million doses of mRNA vaccines per year. 

First-in-line will be Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, Spikevax. The company could start filling doses of Spikevax as early as 2023.

Africa’s rates of vaccination against COVID-19 are much lower than in other parts of the world, receiving only 6% of all COVID-19 vaccines, despite being home to 17% of the world’s population. Less than 10% of people living in African nations are fully vaccinated, compared to 54% of the world’s population. One main hurdle stands in the continent's way when it comes to getting vaccines: access. 

In June of 2021, the World Health Organization established a tech transfer hub in South Africa for low- and middle-income countries to get the support to produce their own vaccines, especially those to vaccinate against COVID-19. In February, WHO announced Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia would be the first six countries to receive the technology needed to produce mRNA vaccines in Africa.

This past Oct, Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel had revealed the company's plan to build a factory in Africa to help ensure that the kinds of uneven vaccination rates being seen around the world during COVID-19 do not “happen again.”

“We all know the challenges that Kenya and the entire continent of Africa went through in the earlier stages of this pandemic that resulted in Africa being left behind,” said President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya. “Not because of want but because of lack and Moderna has come to fill that space.”

As of now, Moderna's only FDA approval comes from its Spikevax vaccine, but the drugmaker is developing mRNA-based vaccines for the flu, Zika and other viruses.