The many promises of the mRNA tech transfer hub in Africa

Newsletter Edition #77 [The Weekly Primer]

Share Geneva Health Files


Last week, WHO informed us that deaths from COVID-19 in Africa increased by 80% over the previous month. Much of this increase is being driven by the highly-transmissible Delta variant, WHO has said.

That is the reality the world is grappling with right now. This coexists with another reality, that vaccines work and that rich countries are letting doses expire. How many lives could have been saved if only vaccines were distributed taking into account epidemiological urgency and vulnerabilities. The IMF says: “less than 5% of doses that were pre-purchased by or for low-income countries have been delivered”.

Keep in mind that, on current trends nearly 70% of African countries will not reach the 10% vaccination target by the end of September, according to WHO. “Around 3.5 million to four million doses are administered weekly on the continent but to meet the September target this must rise to 21 million doses at the very least each week. Many African countries have prepared well to roll out vaccines but the vaccines have not arrived,” WHO has said.

This grave injustice will no doubt haunt us for all time to come. But week after week, month after month, influential leaders and actors have actively contributed to perpetuating these injustices. And there is no end in sight.

Here is our exclusive from Friday that brings together the different elements at the WTO General Council Meeting that took place last week: The Writing on the Wall? The EU Seeks to Steer Talks Away from the TRIPS Waiver Proposal.

The Global Investigative Journalism Network featured Geneva Health Files as one of the Five Inspiring Investigative Newsletters. We are very happy that our reporting efforts are being recognized by the best in the field.

In August, we will have lighter editions to reflect on our operations and fine-tune our publications strategy. However, as always, we are keeping a close watch on global health developments in Geneva and will continue to bring our weekly primers to you over the next few weeks.

During this period I will also chart out stories and projects that will arrive in the fall which need more planning and preparation. In addition, I take this opportunity to spend some time with my family.

We trust that our readers will indulge us with some spare time now to regather for a hectic season in the months ahead.

Write to us with suggestions and feedback.



Feel free to write to us: or; Follow us on Twitter: @filesgeneva




My colleague Rithika has pulled this together for you:

  • Where a Vast Global Vaccination Program Went Wrong: New York Times

    Explosive story from the NYT.


    “…More supplies are finally on the way, courtesy of the Biden administration, which is buying 500 million Pfizer doses and delivering them through Covax, the centerpiece of a larger pledge by wealthy democracies. The donated doses should begin shipping this month.

    But the Biden donation, worth $3.5 billion, comes with a caveat: To help fund it, the administration is diverting hundreds of millions of dollars promised for vaccination drives in poorer countries, according to notes from a meeting between Covax and American officials. Short on funding, those countries have had a hard time buying fuel to transport doses to clinics, training people to administer shots or persuading people to get them.”

    …. “By this May, Covax appeared poised to strike a new deal of its own to buy low-cost doses from Pfizer. It had already ordered 40 million in January; this deal was expected to be bigger.

    “But behind the scenes, tension was simmering between Pfizer and Covax, two people familiar with the negotiations said. The company wanted the new doses to go to poorer nations alone. As a global purchasing pool, Covax insisted on also fulfilling orders from wealthier countries that had been buying directly at higher prices. South Korea, for example, had received Pfizer doses from the program.

    And the two sides had already tangled. In negotiations over the first round of doses, Pfizer had sought liability protections beyond Covax’s model indemnification agreement, Dr. Berkley said, asking countries to sign additional legal letters.” "

    New York Times

  • Pfizer and Moderna raise EU Covid vaccine prices: Financial Times

    “The terms of the deals, struck this year for a total of up to 2.1bn shots until 2023, were renegotiated after phase 3 trial data showed their messenger ribonucleic acid vaccines had higher efficacy rates than cheaper shots developed by Oxford/AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson.

    The new price for a Pfizer shot was €19.50 against €15.50 previously, according to portions of the contracts seen by the Financial Times.

    The price of a Moderna jab was $25.50 a dose, the contracts show, up from what people familiar with the matter said was about €19 ($22.60) in the first procurement deal but lower than a previously agreed $28.50 because the order had grown, according to one official close to the negotiations.

    The official said the companies had capitalised on their market power and deployed the “usual pharma rhetoric . . . Vaccines work so they increased the ‘value’.”

    Financial Times

  • Pfizer raises sales forecast for Covid vaccine by almost a third to $33bn: Financial Times

  • Drug firm that hiked prices by 6,000% paid shareholders £400m: The Guardian

  • Big Pharma Quietly Pushes Back on Global Tax Deal, Citing Covid-19 Role: The Wall Street Journal




Geoffrey York, a Johannesburg journalist draws our attention to Moderna’s profit margin on its COVID-19 vaccine


Pulse Podcast via Hindu BusinessLine - Privatisation of science has a grave impact on lives: Leena Menghaney, MSF

Leave a comment

Global health is everybody’s business. Help us probe the dynamics where science and politics interface with interests. Support investigative global health journalism.