Fact check: Is Moderna really building a vaccine factory in the Philippines?

Xave Gregorio - Philstar.com
Fact check: Is Moderna really building a vaccine factory in the Philippines?
(FILES) In this file photo the Moderna logo is seen at the Moderna campus in Norwood, Massachusetts on on December 2, 2020, where the biotechnology company is mass producing its Covid-19 vaccine. US biotech firm Moderna said on June 7, 2021 it was seeking conditional approval for use of its Covid-19 vaccine on teens in Europe and Canada, in what will assuredly be a boost for inoculation campaigns. "We are encouraged that the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine was highly effective at preventing Covid-19 and SARS-CoV-2 infection in adolescents," Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel said in a statement, adding that the firm also planned to file for emergency approval with the US Food and Drug Administration.
AFP / Joseph Prezioso

MANILA, Philippines — There has been much hype surrounding Malacañang’s announcement that US pharmaceutical and biotechnology company Moderna Inc. will establish a “vaccine making facility” in the Philippines, but is this really within reach?

CLAIM: Moderna will be setting up a vaccine making facility in the country as announced during a meeting between the company’s executives and Philippine officials in Washington, including President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

RATING: This is misleading and needs context.


What the press statement says

Malacañang said Moderna executives told Marcos and other Philippine officials of their move to set up a vaccine making facility in the country during their meeting at the Blair House in Washington.

Moderna Chief Commercial Officer Arpa Garay and Senior Vice President and General Manager Patrick Bergstedt reportedly said they will establish a “Shared Service Facility for Pharmacovigilance.”

This facility in the Philippines, hailed by Moderna executives as the “perfect location,” will supposedly serve the entire Asia-Pacific region. It will be the company’s only shared service facility in Asia and the third in the world after Poland and Georgia in the US.

Malacañang said it is expected to employ around 50 staff composed of health professionals with their shortlisted office location either in Makati or at Bonifacio Global City in Taguig.

What was left out

The shared services facility will handle some back-office and testing tasks for Moderna in the Asia-Pacific, according to the company’s senior vice president and general manager Patrick Bergstedt, as reported by BusinessWorld.

Bergstedt reportedly said in a virtual briefing that Moderna’s establishment of a presence in the Philippines does not necessarily mean that there are near-term plans to manufacture vaccines locally.

He added that talks about vaccine production are “premature” at this time as Moderna’s operations in the country are still “crawling.”

“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,” he said, as quoted by BusinessWorld.

But Bergstedt is not exactly ruling out an expansion in the country as it is “very well located from a distribution and logistics perspective.”

Why we fact-checked this

The claim was made by Malacañang’s communication arm and has been amplified by several news outlets, boosting its reach. There is a need to provide context to the claim to temper expectations from the public.

Philstar.com is a founding partner of Tsek.ph, a collaborative fact-checking project for the 2022 Philippines’ elections and an initiative of academe, civil society groups and media to counter disinformation and provide the public with verified information.

Want to know more about our fact-checking initiative? Check our FAQs here. Have a claim you want fact-checked? Reach out to us at [email protected].

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