Pfizer and BioNTech will commence manufacturing Covid-19 Vaccines in South Africa. This move could increase the availability of doses across the continent next year. When fully operational, the companies also added that the annual Vaccines production would exceed 100 million doses, to be distributed exclusively within African countries.
The companies added that they signed a letter of intent with the Biovac Institute in Cape Town to transfer technology, install equipment, and develop manufacturing capability. The raw material for the Vaccines will be shipped from Europe and the first doses will be produced in 2022.According to data from the World Health Organization, the vaccination rates across Africa remain extremely low, with just over 20 million full Vaccines doses administered to a population of over 1.3 billion. WHO also said that only 1.5% of the population has been fully vaccinated. Several countries including Mali, Niger and Ethiopia have administered any doses per 100 people.
The announcement received a positive response. John Nkengasong, the director of the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that this is great news that must be celebrated in the context of this pandemic as every action counts. He sees this as a part of the collective action to address technology transfer and intellectual property.There have been steady calls from countries including India and South Africa to give up the intellectual property rights on Vaccines technology as part of ongoing negotiations at the World Trade Organization.
The Vaccines distribution on the continent has been afflicted by a shortage of doses, much of which is supplied by the global Vaccines distribution initiative COVAX. Many doses were expected to come from the Serum Institute of India, but exports were cancelled due to India’s disastrous second wave of Covid-19 and will not restart until the end of the year.