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GENEVA – Moderna has authorized a Covid-19 vaccine to be used in World Health Organization (WHO) efforts to develop mRNA shots to increase production and increase access to poorer countries.

Afrigen Biologics & Vaccines, a South African biotech company working with the WHO, has used the Moderna vaccine in a comparative study in mice to test the efficacy of its own shot, said Afrigen’s managing director. Petro Terblanche said.

Demand for Covid shots has slowed around the world as recent variants of the virus have caused mild illness, but many people in low- and middle-income countries like South Africa have not been vaccinated. , remains vulnerable to potentially fatal diseases.

With Moderna’s help, Afrigen aims to develop a shot that could be manufactured in at least 15 production facilities around the world under the auspices of the WHO’s mRNA Vaccine Technology Transfer Hub in Cape Town.

Moderna did not supply the vaccine directly. The French government has allowed the vaccine to be provided following a request from the United Nations-backed pharmaceutical patent pool, according to the chairman of the pool, Dr. Marie-Paul Kieny.

Pfizer denied a similar request because it didn’t consider the urgent need, she said.

A partnership between Moderna, Pfizer and BioNTech SE will allow factories in poorer countries to produce vaccines after the world’s richest countries race to vaccinate their populations, with little vaccine available in much of Africa. They are under pressure to do so.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, Pfizer has received numerous requests to collaborate on research and other initiatives from a variety of valuable sources,” Pfizer said in a statement.

“Unfortunately it is not possible to support them all and our focus remains on delivering according to our existing supply agreements with the government.”

Moderna declined to comment.

France is backing the mRNA hub, giving €20 million (S$28 million) to date, Dr. Kieny said.

WHO’s mRNA hub has more ambitious plans to produce Afrigen-designed vaccines in factories in countries such as South Africa, Argentina, Ukraine and Bangladesh.

Early-stage trials of Afrigen’s shots in mice produced a “strong immune response,” the company said.

Moderna has set some conditions for the vaccine’s use in the study, Professor Terblanche said, but did not elaborate.

Still, Afrigen may need more help from Moderna or Pfizer, such as allowing the vaccine to be used for controlled human trials expected to begin by May. The request is expected to be made in the coming weeks.

Ultimately, WHO will follow the production of a Covid-19 vaccine to immunize against neglected diseases that plague citizens of poor countries, including tuberculosis, HIV-AIDS, certain cancers, Ebola, and hemorrhagic fevers such as Lassa. We plan to make an attempt to develop a Fever and Marburg Moderna helps WHO develop Covid-19 shots that can help poor countries

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