SOUTH AFRICA – A consortium of nine development and finance institutions have announced a partnership with South African vaccine manufacturer, Biovac, to support its manufacturing expansion.

It bolsters South Africa’s plans to increase its domestic vaccine production capacity, and reduce the risk of standing at the back of the queue again in future health emergencies.

This will also help to strengthen the global response to COVID-19 and advance long-term health security across the African continent.

The partners include the African Development Bank (AfDB), CDC Group (the UK’s development finance institution), DEG (German development finance institution), and DFC (the US International Development Finance Corporation).

Other partners are the European Investment Bank (EIB), French development finance institution Proparco, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the European Union Delegation to South Africa, and the Industrial Corporation of South Africa (IDC).

Biovac is already part of the consortium partnering with the WHO on global mRNA vaccine technology transfer hub in South Africa.

The company also entered into an agreement with Pfizer in July 2021 to manufacture up to 100 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for use in Africa.

Biovac will firstly expand existing vaccine manufacturing capacity for Covid-19 vaccines, then turn to capacity for routine vaccines as well.

This expansion is consistent with UN Sustainable Development Goal 3 on Good Health and Well-being by improving access to safe, effective, high-quality, and affordable essential medicines and vaccines.

It is also in line with the UN SDGs 8 and 9 on improving economic opportunities and upgrading technological capabilities in Africa’s pharmaceutical manufacturing sector.

Biovac will need to raise approximately US$150 million (R 2.3 billion) to realize the expansion and increased local vaccine manufacturing capacity on the African continent.

Most recently, Patrick Soon-Shiong, a US biotech billionaire, launched a plant in Cape Town that will produce a billion Covid-19 vaccine doses per year by 2025, making it Africa’s largest such factory and potentially helping the continent’s least vaccinated continent combat the pandemic.

In October, Moderna announced that it had begun looking for locations in Africa where it could build a US$500 million mRNA manufacturing facility capable of producing hundreds of millions of vaccine doses per year in anticipation of future demand.

Biovac CFO Craig Mitchell said, “COVID-19 has proven that a more geographical spread of vaccine manufacturing is much needed globally, with the African continent having the least number of vaccine manufacturers.

We are pleased that the consortium of funders is willing to work with Biovac to create sustainable African vaccine manufacturing, not only to respond to the current pandemic, but also to much needed routine vaccines and future pandemic vaccines as well.”

Makhtar Diop, IFC Managing Director added: “This unique partnership will help boost the production and manufacturing capacity of a range of vaccines, including the COVID-19 vaccine, in Africa.

With strong partnerships and increased investment, manufacturers in Africa, such as Biovac, can ramp up domestic vaccine production to build a more resilient health sector and strengthen regional value chains.”

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