Moderna Inc is to supply Covax with an additional 176.5mln doses of its coronavirus vaccine under a previously agreed option arrangement.

The US pharma has run into increasing criticism for its distribution policy amid accusations of targeting Europe, the US and other developed countries to maximise profits.

Covax is the venture set up by the World Health Organisation and not-for-profit group Gavi to get vaccines to third world countries.

Up to this point, Moderna has been the lowest supplier to low-income countries among the US vaccine makers according to shipment tracer Airfinity, with Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) each supplying considerably more doses.

Moderna said the delivery of this latest order would be split into 116.5mln doses in the first quarter of 2022 and 60mln doses in the second quarter while 34mln doses already purchased by Covax would arrive this year.

Covax retains the option to purchase a further 233mln doses in the second half of 2022, Moderna said, which has also requested approval for a smaller dosage to increase jab availability.

This latest order would be at its ‘lowest-tiered price’, said Moderna’s statement.

Amounts paid by different countries vary.

The United States is paying US$15 to US$16.50 a jab, though Moderna received US$1.3 bn from the US government to develop its vaccine.

Europe is paying US$22.60 to $25.50 each for its doses with other countries such as Thailand and Botswana paying more the New York Times reported last week.

In a statement, Stephane Bancel, Moderna’s chief executive, said: “We believe our vaccine can play an important role in addressing the needs of low-income countries given its combination of high Phase 3 efficacy against COVID-19, strong durability in the real-world evidence, and superior storage and handling conditions.

“We recognize that access to all vaccines, including ours, continues to be a challenge in many parts of the world which is one of the reasons why we have worked hard to enable a 50 ug booster dose, which will increase the number of usable booster doses available to low-income countries at no additional cost.”

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