UN program inks Moderna deal on 500M doses, starting in Q4

FILE - In this file photo dated Wednesday, April 14, 2021, a pharmacist fills a syringe from a vial of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in Antwerp, Belgium.  Moderna and vaccine promoter Gavi have announced Monday May 3, 2021, the pharmaceutical company will provide up to 500 million coronavirus vaccine doses for the U.N.-backed program for needy people in low- and middle-income countries by the end of 2022. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo, FILE)
FILE - In this file photo dated Wednesday, April 14, 2021, a pharmacist fills a syringe from a vial of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in Antwerp, Belgium. Moderna and vaccine promoter Gavi have announced Monday May 3, 2021, the pharmaceutical company will provide up to 500 million coronavirus vaccine doses for the U.N.-backed program for needy people in low- and middle-income countries by the end of 2022. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo, FILE) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

GENEVA – U.S. biotech company Moderna will provide up to 500 million doses for the U.N.-backed program to ship coronavirus vaccines to needy people in low- and middle-income countries, but shipments won't begin until the fourth quarter, the company and program leaders said Monday.

The advance purchase agreement from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, comes just days after the World Health Organization announced emergency approval of the Moderna vaccine that paves the way for its inclusion in the U.N.-backed COVAX program.

Gavi, a Geneva-based public-private partnership, has been scrambling to try to strike deals with vaccine makers at the same time as trying to persuade rich countries that have secured millions of doses — some of which they aren't even using — to donate them to poorer ones.

Also Monday, the alliance announced that Sweden’s government has committed to donate 1 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine “to help COVAX urgently address immediate-term supply delays.”

Moderna has already struck, and been delivering on, supply agreements with many rich countries, which have received millions of doses of its vaccine. WHO has repeatedly decried a lack of equity in access to COVID-19 vaccines.

The rollout of Moderna vaccines for COVAX isn't set to begin until the fourth quarter of this year, and the vast majority of the doses in the deal — 466 million — are planned for next year. The remaining 34 million are expected this year.

Stephane Bancel, the Moderna CEO, expressed support for the COVAX mission and called the deal “an important milestone” to ensure access to its vaccine worldwide.

“We recognize that many countries have limited resources to access COVID-19 vaccines," Bancel said in a statement. "We remain committed to doing everything that we can to ending this ongoing pandemic with our mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.”