The 92 countries are members of the Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment, a mechanism aimed at securing financing for vaccines to go to those areas.

By KRISTA MAHR

Moderna pledged on Monday to “never enforce” its patents for Covid-19 vaccines against manufacturers that are based in or producing in 92 low- and middle-income countries, a shift for the biotechnology firm that has come under pressure to share its mRNA technology to help address global vaccine inequity.

The 92 countries are members of the Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment, a mechanism aimed at securing financing for vaccines to go to those areas.

“We are committed to defeating the pandemic across the globe, and we are fulfilling that through our pledge not to enforce our COVID-19 related patents in low- and middle-income countries,” Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said in a statement. “We are dedicated to combatting COVID-19 globally and preparing for the next pandemic.”

In countries outside the group of 92, the company “expects those using Moderna-patented technologies will respect the Company’s intellectual property,” the statement said. “Moderna remains willing to license its technology for COVID-19 vaccines to manufacturers in these countries on commercially reasonable terms.”

Moderna also announced on Monday that it signed a memorandum of understanding with the government of Kenya to host an mRNA manufacturing facility, which aims to produce up to 500 million doses of vaccines a year. It will also expand its global public health portfolio to 15 vaccine programs targeting emerging or neglected infectious diseases, and start a program that will allow researchers to use Moderna’s mRNA technology in their search for new vaccines against those diseases.

As the United States and other wealthy nations are starting to look for ways to move on from the pandemic, only about 65 percent of the world’s population has received at least one Covid-19 vaccine dose, according to The New York Times’ vaccine tracker. In Africa, only about 11 percent of the population was fully vaccinated as of February, according to the WHO, as countries face obstacles in rolling out vaccine doses.

In June 2021, the WHO selected a South African consortium to operate a global mRNA transfer technology hub designed to help manufacturers in low- and middle-income countries produce their own Covid-19 vaccines and, more broadly, start to produce their own vaccines, medicines and supplies, instead of relying on Western firms.

Though South Africa is not one of the 92 AMC countries, Moderna says it will allow the WHO hub and Afrigen Biologics, a Cape Town-based company that has tried to replicate the Moderna vaccine for the hub, to access its technology for vaccines targeted at the specified group of nations.

“Consistent with this pledge, Moderna will not enforce its patents for COVID-19 vaccines in South Africa against the efforts by Afrigen Biologics and/or the WHO hub targeted at AMC 92 countries,” a Moderna spokesperson said in a statement to POLITICO on Monday.

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