Vaccine equity campaigners have called the news that COVID-19 vaccine manufacturer BioNTech will start building a vaccine production facility in Rwanda next year “far too little, far too late.”
The People’s Vaccine Alliance has also said that Moderna’s new commitment to produce 110 million doses for the African Union as “barely worth the paper it is written on” after the company failed to deliver promised vaccines to COVAX, and called on the US government to step in and mandate the company to commit to technology transfer.
The Alliance, a coalition of more than 75 organisations including Oxfam, UNAIDS, Global Justice Now, and Amnesty International, has called on BioNTech and Moderna to share the technology and knowhow for its vaccine with the WHO’s COVID-19 technology access pool (C-TAP) and mRNA hub in South Africa.
While the Alliance calls more global south manufacturing a “positive development”, it says BioNTech’s offer of 50 million doses from the middle of next year is “pittance” compared to the amount produced in the company’s facilities in Germany.
Reacting to BioNTech’s announcement, Anna Marriott, Policy Lead for the People’s Vaccine Alliance and Oxfam’s Health Policy Manager, said:
“After huge public pressure, BioNTech has finally committed to manufacturing vaccines in the global south. While this is a positive development, it’s far too little, far too late from a company that has made a killing from the pandemic.
“Offering to only start building a facility in Africa in the middle of next year that will then at some point produce just 50 million doses – enough for just 2 percent of the continent’s population – is pittance when just one of their factories in Germany produces more than that each month.
“If BioNTech really wants to change the course of this pandemic, it should immediately share the technology and knowhow for this publicly-funded innovation with the WHO’s technology pool and mRNA hub in South Africa, so that more developing country manufacturers can produce these game-changing vaccines.”
Reacting to Moderna’s announcement, Robbie Silverman, Senior Manager for Private Sector Engagement, Oxfam America, made the following statement:
“Zero Moderna doses have been delivered to low-income countries so far, zero to the African Union, and zero to COVAX, the global facility to distribute doses to the developing world. Why do we think Moderna will finally come through now?
“Despite enormous taxpayer investment and obscene profits, Moderna is fighting to maintain its monopoly grip even as it struggles to increase its own manufacturing capacity. Enough is enough. President Biden must step in and insist that Moderna share its vaccine technology with the WHO’s technology hub.
As taxpayers, we did not invest $10 billion to line the pockets of Moderna’s executives and shareholders. We invested $10 billion to end the pandemic. And the only way to end the pandemic is to share the technology and make sure everyone, everywhere has access to a vaccine.”