Moderna rules out vaccine production in PHL for now

MODERNA, Inc. said its establishment of a presence in the Philippines does not signal near-term plans to manufacture vaccines domestically.

Patrick Bergstedt, Moderna senior vice-president and general manager, told reporters in a virtual briefing on Wednesday that the company is still at the “crawling phase” of its Philippine operations, which currently consist of an upcoming shared services facility, which will handle some back-office and testing tasks for the company in the region.  

Mr. Bergstedt had been asked whether the facility being established in the Philippines is a prelude to local manufacturing.

“It is premature to talk beyond that at this point in time. I think we want to also be realistic to say that we need to crawl before we can (expand). And we’re still in the crawling phase,” Mr. Bergstedt said.

“The Philippine environment promotes innovation. You have many examples in the Philippines where businesses have innovated their sectors and really advanced the thinking, practices, processes, skills and technology. And we want to be part of that. Now that’s going to be the first phase,” he added.

However, Mr. Bergstedt noted the Philippines’ strategic location that might suit an expansion later on.

“Maybe a couple of years and then beyond that. The Philippines is also very well located from a distribution and logistics perspective. So, you can imagine strengthening and bringing some of the people in the facility that also provide that capability,” Mr. Bergstedt said.

“The message for the Philippines is that this is a large country of over a hundred million people. We went through a robust process to select the Philippines and we are here for a long-term commitment. We hope to continue to build upon that for the future,” he added.

Mr. Bergstedt said the shared service facility in the Philippines is expected to be completed by the end of this year and will result in the creation of 40 to 50 jobs.

The facility will house finance, pharmacovigilance, medical, human resources, and commercial offices. It will provide business services across the Asia-Pacific region.

Mr. Bergstedt said that Moderna is currently in the process of seeking the Philippine government’s approval for a bivalent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine, as well as other vaccines for respiratory syncytial virus infections, and combination vaccines that provides protection across various respiratory diseases.  

“The Philippines is well-located regionally. It’s relatively easy to get from Manila to a number of Asian countries where we are committed. Our expansion in the Philippines is an extension of a decision that we took in the beginning of 2022 to establish a presence in the ASEAN region,” Mr. Bergstedt said. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave