Moderna has been criticised for supplying its COVID-19 vaccine almost exclusively to wealthy nations.

Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine is emerging as the world’s best defence against COVID-19 in studies, after developing it with the financial and scientific support of the US government.

Since then, Moderna has been shipping most of its doses to wealthy countries. In fact, it more strongly favours the rich than any other vaccine manufacturer, according to Airfinity, a data firm that tracks vaccine shipments.

Just 1 million Modernsa doses have gone to countries that the World Bank classifies as low income, compared to 8.4 million Pfizer doses and about 25 million single-shot Johnson & Johnson doses. 

Some middle-income countries have reached deals to buy Moderna’s shots, but most have not yet received any doses.

Several of these nations also report being charged higher prices for the vaccines than the United States or the European Union has paid.

Thailand and Colombia say they are paying a premium, Botswana says its doses are late and Tunisia says it cannot even get in touch with Moderna.

Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca all offer a diverse array of drugs and other products, but Moderna only sells its COVID-19 vaccine. 

The future of the company hinges on the commercial success of its vaccine.

“They are behaving as if they have absolutely no responsibility beyond maximising the return on investment,” Dr Tom Frieden, a former head of the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, has told reporters. 

Moderna says its production capacity remains limited, meaning all of this year’s doses will be used to fill existing orders.

The US has expressed frustration that Moderna is not making its vaccine more available to poorer countries. The US Government is reportedly pushing Moderna executives to increase production and license the technology to overseas manufacturers.

Moderna has claimed that it will open a factory in Africa, but has given no further details. 

The company says “it is sad” that its vaccine has not reached more people in poorer countries.

Government and vaccine suppliers are very quiet about how much is being spent per dose in different jurisdictions. The lack of transparency puts relatively poor countries in a weak bargaining position. 

They are “negotiating totally in the dark,” according to Kate Elder, an advisor to Doctors Without Borders on vaccine policy. 

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