As it expands its footprint, Moderna reaches deal to commercialize Covid-19 vaccine doses in Middle East
While the UAE leads the world with the highest percentage of residents vaccinated, neighboring Saudi Arabia — home to nearly 35 million people — has lagged behind significantly. On Friday, Moderna announced that it has partnered with the Saudi pharmaceutical company Tabuk to commercialize its jab and future variant-specific boosters in the country.
Tabuk will hold marketing authorization for the vaccine in Saudi Arabia, and the agreement gives them the possibility of distributing future Moderna mRNA products.
Saudi Arabia has vaccinated just 6% of its population. The country has had a steady number of around 1,000 cases per day since May 20. Since the start of the pandemic, 7,503 Saudi Arabians have died from the virus, while 461,000 people have tested positive.
“As part of our role and mission in Tabuk to deliver unique health solutions and preserve lives for the people of Saudi Arabia and countries we operate in especially during the current pandemic, our partnership with Moderna comes in as an evident choice to further support our mission in line with Saudi vision 2030 regarding biotechnology in association with such a distinguished & renowned company as Moderna,” said Mohammed Alhagbani, the president of Astra Industrial Group, which owns Tabuk.
Moderna has been busy. The company announced a plan to produce as many as 3 billion doses of its vaccine per year, in a move that CEO Stéphane Bancel said in an interview with Endpoints News was driven by the company’s sense of obligation in helping the rest of the world with vaccines. At the start of May, though it was late to the party, Moderna pledged 500 million doses to Gavi, the vaccine alliance.
Since then, it’s announced partnerships to manufacture vaccines in Spain, South Korea, Australia and Switzerland, as well as bolstered its US operations with expansions in Massachusetts. Just Thursday, Moderna filed for emergency use authorization to get its vaccine in the arms of teens between the ages of 12 and 17. Earlier that week, it filed for authorization with EU and Canadian regulators as well.
The company announced in May that its Phase II/III study of the vaccine in adolescents met the primary endpoints in nearly 2,500 patients and showed an efficacy of 100% against severe symptomatic Covid-19. The trial also looked at milder cases than were examined in the adult study, since children are less likely to develop serious side effects. The study found that the vaccine was 93% effective at stopping mild cases 14 days after patients were dosed with their first shot.
A previous version of this story stated that Moderna and Magenta had reached a deal to manufacture vaccines in Saudi Arabia. That has been corrected.