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Why Moderna is investing Sh56 billion in Kenya

The vaccines will be produced in Kenya and distributed across Africa

A nurse administers an AstraZeneca vaccination in Kibera, Kenya, on Jan. 20. (Brian Inganga/The Associated Press)

American pharmaceutical and biotechnology company is set to invest Sh56 billion to build an mRNA jab-manufacturing facility in Kenya.

The facility which is the first of its kind in Africa is expected to produce up to 500 million doses a year. The vaccines will not only be used in Kenya but also Africa as a whole, with the company targeting the continents 1.3 billion people and growing.

"Battling the COVID-19 pandemic over the last two years has provided a reminder of the work that must be done to ensure global health equity. Moderna is committed to being a part of the solution," the company's CEO Stephane Bancel said in a statement.

Due to vaccine inequality, Africa has lagged behind other regions in vaccinating its citizens through the COVID-19 pandemic and there have been several efforts in recent months to help the continent produce its own mRNA COVID-19 shots.

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"Moderna's investment in Kenya will help advance equitable global vaccine access and is emblematic of the structural developments that will enable Africa to become an engine of sustainable global growth," President Uhuru Kenyatta said.

Africa surpasses Europe in daily vaccination

The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is still pressing for more vaccines, though it has been a challenge. Some shipments arrive with little warning for countries' health systems and others near the expiration date, forcing doses to be destroyed.

In a good sign, at the end of last month, Africa surpassed Europe in the number of doses administered daily, but only about 12.5 per cent of its population has received two shots.

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As of Sunday, March 6, a total of 16,883,282 vaccines had been administered across the country. 7,881,767 are partially vaccinated while those fully vaccinated are 7,712,482.

Moderna said it hopes to use the facility to supply doses of its COVID-19 jab to African nations as early as next year, in a bid to boost vaccine coverage on the world's least immunised continent.

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