SOUTH AFRICA – South Africa has been praised for its collaboration with the EU for global vaccine equity and for taking a pioneering approach to vaccine manufacturing on the African continent.

South Africa’s vaccine manufacturing capacity has received a major boost with an R281 million (US$15.86m) grant from the European Union (EU) and the European Investment Bank (EIB).

The funds will support the expansion of Biovac, Southern Africa’s only human vaccine manufacturer and Afrigen Biologics, a biotechnology company.

The sentiments were shared by a delegation of the Team Europe Initiative (TEI) on Manufacturing and Access to Vaccines, Medicines and Health Technologies (MAV+) at the Westin Hotel.

The objective of the MAV+ is to increase equitable access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential vaccines, medicines and health technologies for Africans.

EU ambassador to South Africa Sandra Kramer said they had committed to boosting local manufacturing capacities and to strengthening the pharmaceutical systems in South Africa.

“We saw during the Covid-19 pandemic that Africa as a whole was largely dependent on vaccines being brought in and that is an untenable situation,” Kyriakides said.

“We signed a R50.5 million (US$2.85m) grant to support the expansion of Biovac’s multi-vaccine manufacturing capacity. But co-operation needs to go beyond financial support.

“South Africa has played a key role from day one of this pandemic in global co-operation in vaccine equity.”

The delegation undertook a visit to the World Health Organization mRNa Hub, Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines, of which the EU contributed €40 million (US$43.02m) to its establishment, and the Biovac Institute.

South Africa’s Deputy Health Minister Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, said: “We are unlikely to be at the back of the queue now in the event we have another pandemic.”

In June 2021, the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced it had selected a South African consortium to run an mRNA technology transfer hub, serving all low- and middle-income countries. No additional hubs are planned.

Within this consortium, AfriGen Biologics establishes mRNA vaccine production technology, the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) provides the research, and The Biovac Institute is the first manufacturing ‘spoke’.

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