Vaccine equity campaigners have called 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, calling 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 know-how 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, 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 per cent of the continent’s population – is a 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 know-how 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, Anna Marriott, policy lead for the People’s Vaccine Alliance, said:
“After having so far delivered zero of their committed doses to COVAX, this new Moderna Memorandum of Understanding with the African Union to at some point deliver 110 million more vaccines is barely worth the paper it is written on.
“This is a publicly funded vaccine and should be available to all as a public good. It is beyond time that the US government step in and insist the vaccine technology is shared immediately with the WHO mRNA technology hub.”
Read The People’s Vaccine Alliance full report: “A Dose of Reality: How rich countries and pharmaceutical corporations are breaking their vaccine promises“.
A report last month from Amnesty International found that large pharmaceutical companies, including BioNTech and Moderna, were fuelling an unprecedented human rights crisis through their refusal to waive intellectual property rights and share vaccine technology.