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Moderna providing up to 500M vaccine doses to UN-backed program for lower-income countries

Moderna providing up to 500M vaccine doses to UN-backed program for lower-income countries
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Moderna on Monday committed to providing up to 500 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine to a United Nations-backed program designed to supply vaccinations to middle- and low-income countries.

The company announced an agreement with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, in which Moderna pledged to give a maximum of 500 million doses to the COVAX Facility, including an initial 34 million doses within the fourth quarter of this year.

The deal also permits Gavi to obtain 466 million additional vaccine doses in 2022 at Moderna’s lowest tiered price. 

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Gavi co-leads, along with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and World Health Organization (WHO), the COVAX program, which aims to give lower-income nations access to shots by 2022.

Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel labeled the move “an important milestone” to increase the equitability of vaccine distribution globally. 

“We recognize that many countries have limited resources to access COVID-19 vaccines,” Bancel said in a statement. “We support COVAX’s mission to ensure broad, affordable and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines and we remain committed to doing everything that we can to ending this ongoing pandemic with our mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.”

Moderna’s pledge comes three days after the WHO granted its vaccine authorization for emergency use for those 18 and older. The WHO had already authorized vaccines by Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca, the Serum Institute of India and Johnson & Johnson. 

The news also follows Moderna escalating its plans to develop between 800 million and 1 billion doses this year, compared to its original predictions of creating 600 million to 700 million doses. 

The COVAX program hit a roadblock in recent weeks when India outlawed exports of COVID-19 vaccines as the nation deals with rapidly rising case and death numbers. 

Sweden declared it would share 1 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine with the COVAX program, as WHO said the initiative “urgently needs 20 million doses” to make up for the loss in supply from India, a main exporter of the AstraZeneca vaccine.