Moderna Inc. said on Monday that it will supply 34 million doses of its Covid-19 vaccine to an international program that distributes free shots to poorer countries.
The doses will be delivered in the fourth quarter of 2021 to the World Health Organization-backed Covax initiative, a program financed mostly by Western governments that offers free coronavirus vaccines to 92 low- and middle-income countries across the world.
Covax will retain an option to purchase another 466 million doses in 2022, according to a statement by Moderna and Gavi, one of the organizations behind the vaccine aid program.
The announcement comes as the pandemic is accelerating in developing countries such as India and Brazil, which have been reporting record numbers of deaths amid a surge of coronavirus infections that has overwhelmed their healthcare systems.
While countries such as the U.S., the U.K. and Israel are coming closer to vaccinating large majorities of their populations, developing nations are struggling to get their rollouts off the ground, with vaccine manufacturers focused on richer markets who have preordered the bulk of their supply.
On current trends, emerging economies will have only vaccinated 30% of their populations by the end of the year, the investment bank UBS said last month.
“We recognize that many countries have limited resources to access Covid-19 vaccines,” said Stephane Bancel, chief executive of Moderna, in a statement on Monday.
“We support COVAX’s mission to ensure broad, affordable and equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines,” Mr. Bancel added
Until last week, Covax had only provided about 50 million doses out of its goal of delivering two billion doses by the end of this year, enough to vaccinate around 20% of the receiving countries’ populations with a two-shot regimen. Covax said earlier this year that it expects to ship 145 million vaccines by the end of May.
Gavi said last month that it had agreements to get 340 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca PLC vaccine and about 1.2 million doses of shots made by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE.
Moderna, like Pfizer-BioNTech, supplies a vaccine based on the so called messenger RNA technology.
“We are very pleased to sign this new agreement with Moderna, giving COVAX Facility participants access to yet another highly efficacious vaccine,” Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, said in a statement.
WHO issued last week an emergency-use authorization for Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine for people aged 18 and older.