Moderna Inc. agreed to provide as many as 500 million doses of its Covid-19 shot to the program known as Covax in a boost for the global vaccination effort, but most of the shipments won’t arrive until next year.
Moderna is joining developers including AstraZeneca Plc, Pfizer Inc. and Johnson & Johnson in supplying Covax, which has faced setbacks in its bid to help lower-income nations. The vaccine last week was cleared for emergency use by the World Health Organization, making it eligible for Covax, according to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, one of the partners in the initiative.
Covax has encountered funding challenges, delivery delays and other hurdles in a high-stakes campaign to narrow the vaccine-access gap. As India confronts a devastating resurgence of the illness, concerns are rising for many countries around the world that have been left behind their wealthier counterparts.
Rich countries last year snapped up doses of vaccines from Moderna and other drugmakers, and the U.S. alone has already administered more than 240 million doses. Covax meanwhile has shipped about 50 million doses to more than 120 countries and territories, based on data through late April.
Supplies of Moderna’s mRNA vaccine to Covax are set to begin in the fourth quarter, with 34 million doses available in 2021, Gavi said Monday. The U.S. company will supply as many as 466 million doses in 2022 and potentially provide access to shots that are adapted to fight variants of the coronavirus in the future. The terms of the agreement with Gavi weren’t disclosed.
The doses will help broaden Covax’s portfolio at a crucial time. The program is heavily reliant on the shot from AstraZeneca, which is cheaper and easier to deploy but has faced worries about rare blood clots that have complicated immunization campaigns. Covax is also leaning on the Serum Institute of India Ltd. as a key supplier, but the country said in March it would slow down exports to focus on its own needs.
“Having a diverse portfolio has always been a core goal for Covax, and to remain adaptable in the face of this continually evolving pandemic — including the rising threat posed by new variants,” Gavi Chief Executive Officer Seth Berkley said in the statement.
Gavi has said it’s seeking to raise $2 billion by June to secure additional doses to cover as much as 30% of the populations in 92 lower-income economies. Covax is led by Gavi, the WHO and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, and works with organizations including UNICEF as well.
Pfizer and BioNTech SE in January agreed to supply as many as 40 million doses to Covax, which is also due to receive up to 500 million doses of J&J’s single-shot vaccine.
Moderna said last week it would produce as many as 3 billion doses of its vaccine next year as it makes new investments to bolster output, and CEO Stephane Bancel said he was deeply worried about variant-driven epidemics in places like South America and India.
While AstraZeneca has pledged not to profit from its Covid shot during the pandemic and recorded $275 million in sales from the shot in the first quarter, Moderna has said it expects to bring in more than $18 billion in Covid vaccine sales this year.