The United States has offered no funds so far for the program, which is being organized primarily by the Medicines Patent Pool, a U.N.-supported public health organization. Canada, South Africa and several European governments completed the initial round of funding, which was designed to cover five years of work.

International efforts to learn from the coronavirus pandemic are foundering in the face of mounting fatigue and outright opposition, with much of the world focused on the war in Ukraine and its effects, tensions between Washington and Beijing, and broader economic problems.

U.S. officials have praised the initiative and provided technical support and training. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, speaking at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in December, applauded the program as an investment “in future tech know-how and production in Africa, by Africans, with all of the health, science, and economic benefits that this brings.”

The program has shown significant initial scientific success. The mRNA vaccine hub outside of Cape Town, South Africa — the only one up and running — last year was able to reverse-engineer Moderna’s mRNA vaccine by using publicly available information, despite the refusal of the U.S. drug company to share its formula.

While the hub in South Africa is fully funded, more money is needed to help establish the 15 partner vaccine manufacturing sites in countries including Brazil, India and Nigeria, Gore said. The $100 million would allow these sites to invest in the infrastructure they need to work on mRNA vaccines and begin doing their own research and development.

Petro Terblanche, the managing director of Afrigen Biologics, the South African company that worked with researchers from the University of the Witwatersrand to reverse-engineer Moderna’s vaccine, said that the United States had provided “unparalleled” technical support but that money was needed to address “sustainability.”

The manufacturing partners need to order specialist equipment and supplies that are specific to mRNA research, which uses an enzymatic process rather than the live cells used in more traditional vaccine research. There are long waits for orders to be delivered, as much as one year in the case of some key equipment, Gore said.

The program’s backers acknowledged that new vaccines would arrive too late to alter the trajectory of the pandemic. Instead, the hope is to use the technology as a platform for other mRNA vaccines and in future outbreaks. Afrigen has started to research new possibilities, including vaccines for tuberculosis and HIV.

Only two vaccines that have come to market use mRNA technology, and both are made by U.S. companies — Moderna and Pfizer, working with the Germany company BioNTech. Moderna has only offered limited cooperation to the hub, allowing its vaccine to be used for comparative testing purposes. Moderna and BioNTech have both announced plans to bring mRNA manufacturing to Africa.

It was unlikely that the United States would fund the program, despite the nonfinancial support it has given, Gostin said, because of the potential complications from intellectual property law for U.S. companies and the high levels of scrutiny seen on global health funding at the moment.

This content was originally published here.