South Africa is advancing its efforts to manufacture mRNA vaccines in Cape Town. Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus from the World Health Organization was present for the inauguration at the technology hub established by Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines.
According to a WHO statement, Afrigen has effectively set up a COVID-19 vaccine production method and is expanding it. The initial vaccine batches are designated for clinical trials while Afrigen progresses with education and tech transfer.
South African authorities believe their vaccine production endeavors are merely the starting point. Blade Nzimande, the Minister for Higher Education and Science, expressed that collaborating with Afrigen could lead to novel treatments and preventive measures for diseases like malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS, utilizing similar technologies.
Tedros emphasized that the pandemic underscored the need for equity in vaccine access and production for low- and middle-income countries (LICs). As of March 2023, while nearly 70% of the global populace had received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, the percentage in LICs was under 30%.
The progress made in South Africa, where the vaccine initiative was unveiled in 2021, promises to narrow this disparity. “The accomplishments of everyone involved in this initiative are remarkable; in under two years, we’ve demonstrated that collective success comes from collaborative effort,” Tedros remarked.
The project has secured US$117 million in funding, with delegates from donor countries like France, Belgium, Germany, Norway, and Canada in attendance. Leaders from the African and European Union and project collaborators from Biovac and the Medicines Patent Pool were also present.