55 AU MEMBER STATES TO BENEFIT FROM PFIZER VACCINES PRODUCED IN SA

As part of the partnership, Cape Town based-Biovac will start using some of Pfizer and BioNTech’s technology to boost production.

FILE: At full operational capacity, the annual COVID vaccine production will aim for 100 million finished doses annually. Picture: Brendan Smialowski/AFP

Sifiso  Zulu

JOHANNESBURG - Africa's COVID-19 vaccination rollout is expected to get a huge boost with the announcement on Wednesday afternoon that South African-based biotechnology company Biovac will from early next year, produce Pfizer vaccines for the continent.

As part of the partnership, Cape Town based-Biovac will start using some of Pfizer and BioNTech’s technology to boost production.

Most African countries have been left behind by richer nations in the sharing of the jabs raising concerns that slow the distribution is impacting the number of new COVID-19 infections and deaths.

Fifty-five African Union member states are expected to benefit equally from this collaboration.

In his capacity as African Union Champion on COVID-19, President Cyril Ramaphosa said this was a breakthrough in the fight against the pandemic.

“Today’s agreement will contribute significantly to health security and sustainability on our continent, which currently has the least access to vaccination in the world.”

President Ramaphosa said: “The partnership between Biovac and Pfizer is a breakthrough in our effort to overcome global vaccine inequity. The protection of Africans is a necessary and critical contribution to the protection of humanity as a whole. This collaboration recognises the talent and technology that exists on our continent that can be harnessed in our irreversible march of sustainable and inclusive development.”

At full operational capacity, the annual COVID vaccine production will aim for 100 million finished doses annually.

African Union Special Envoy on COVID-19 and member of the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team, Strive Masiyiwa, also welcomed this initiative.

“The only way to guarantee Africa’s access to vaccines now and in the future is through this type of strategic manufacturing partnerships, which we welcome greatly.”

Biovac said it would hit the ground running with the commencement of onsite development and equipment development activities that will enable the manufacturing process to run effectively and efficiently.

What Pfizer and BioNTech are essentially doing is sharing with the local company, information on how to produce the vaccines.

Biovac CEO Morena Mokhoana said their involvement would include the completion of the last step in the manufacturing process of the vaccines.

“Between now and the end of the year, we will be doing some facility modification at our current site because these are modifications that will would have not done unless we knew what was required.”

Biovac said it expected the facility will be brought into the Pfizer/BioNTech supply chain by the end of this year.



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