Pfizer and BioNTech laboratories have begun the process of partially producing Covid-19 vaccines in South Africa to bridge vaccine scarcity in Africa.
In a statement detailing the alliance’s first partnership outside Europe and North America, Biotech explained that they had partnered with Pfizer and Biovac Group, intending to supply up to 100 million doses per year “exclusively” to the 55 “African Union member countries.”
The Covid-19 vaccine would be shipped from the two European factories (laboratories), then shipped to Cape Town for bottling. This process is important to retain control over the manufacture of the messenger RNA, the most delicate and crucial step of vaccine production.
The transfer of technologies and the installation of the machines needed to take part in the manufacturing will start “immediately”, according to a press release.
“This is a crucial step in strengthening sustainable access to vaccines” and the collaboration “will enable wider distribution of doses to people in hard-to-reach communities, especially on the African continent,” commented Morena Makhoana, CEO of Biovac.
Geographical inequalities remain glaring in the face of the pandemic, with the global north vaccinating a large percent of its population while the less developed countries lag. For instance, according to data compiled by AFP, only 1.6% of vaccine doses have been administered in Africa, which represents 17% of the world’s population.
Meanwhile, another Covid-19 vaccine company, Johnson & Johnson is currently bottling its single-dose vaccine, Janssen, in South Africa.