Moderna halts plans to build Kenya vaccine plant as Covid shot demand plunges


A nurse prepares a dose of Moderna Covid-19 vaccine at Oltepesi Dispensary in Kajiado, Kenya, on September 9, 2021.

Patrick Meinhardt | AFP | Getty Images

Moderna on Thursday said it has paused plans to build a vaccine-manufacturing site in Kenya after a steep drop in demand for its Covid vaccines.

The biotech company said it has not received any vaccine orders for Africa since 2022 and has taken more than $1 billion in losses and write-downs related to the cancellation of previous orders from the continent.

Moderna’s decision aligns with its broader effort to cut costs by resizing its Covid vaccine-manufacturing footprint. The company’s business took a major hit last year as demand for those jabs waned worldwide, with people relying less on protective vaccines and treatments against the virus.

Shares of Moderna fell 45% last year, but the stock is up around 6% this year.

In March 2022, the company said it would invest about $500 million in the Kenyan site and supply as many as 500 million doses of its messenger RNA vaccines to Africa each year. Moderna also had plans to start filling doses of its Covid vaccine in the continent as early as 2023.

But the company has since determined that demand in Africa “is insufficient to support the viability of the factory planned in Kenya,” Moderna said in a statement on Thursday. Still, the company said it is committed to “ensuring equitable access and meeting emerging demands from African nations” for its Covid shot through its global manufacturing network.”

The company said it is also working to develop vaccines for diseases that predominantly affect the African continent, such as HIV and malaria. Those shots are part of Moderna’s broader effort to expand access to vaccines that are out of reach in many parts of the world.

But those jabs are still in the early stages of development, the company noted.

“Given this, and in alignment with our strategic planning, Moderna believes it is prudent to pause its efforts to build an mRNA manufacturing facility in Kenya,” the company said in a statement. “This approach will allow Moderna to better align its infrastructure investments with the evolving healthcare needs and vaccine demand in Africa.”

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This article was originally published on CNBC