Six African countries – Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, and Tunisia – will be the first on the continent to get the technology required to manufacture mRNA vaccines, according to the World Health Organization.
The technology transfer project, which began in Cape Town last year, intends to assist low- and middle-income nations in mass-producing mRNA vaccines in accordance with international standards.
For its COVID-19 shots, firms like Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna use modern technology called mRNA.
Following large-scale vaccination purchases by wealthier countries and businesses prioritising sales to governments that could pay the highest price, the WHO developed its worldwide mRNA technology transfer hub. Low- and middle-income countries were put to the back of the line for COVID-19 vaccines as a result.
The WHO chose a partnership of South African businesses to run the global mRNA centre in June of last year, with Afrigen Biologics later using Moderna’s publicly available vaccination sequence to create its own version of the COVID shot. According to the WHO, the first approval for Afrigen dosages may not arrive until 2024. find out more
The epidemic, more than any previous event, illustrated how relying on a few firms to offer global public goods was both restrictive and harmful, according to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
“In the mid- to long-term, the best way to address health emergencies and reach universal health coverage is to significantly increase the capacity of all regions to manufacture the health products they need,” he said in a statement.
Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa has asked the global vaccine distribution system COVAX and the vaccinations partnership GAVI to purchase vaccines from local production hubs.
“The lack of a market for vaccines produced in Africa is something that should be concerning to all of us,” Ramaphosa told a news conference on the sidelines of a European Union-African Union (AU) summit in Brussels.
“Organizations such as COVAX and GAVI need to commit to buying vaccines from local manufacturers instead of going outside of those hubs that have been set up.”
“Of course, our goal is to have 60 per cent of vaccinations delivered in Africa… be produced in Africa as well,” Senegalese President Macky Sall stated.
Rwandan government spokeswoman Yolande Makolo told Reuters that the government is working on mRNA vaccine manufacture alongside BioNTech, the WHO, and the African Union, citing an agreement BionTech signed in October with Kigali and Senegal’s Institut Pasteur de Dakar.
Makolo refused to say whether Rwanda has sought to participate in the WHO’s technology transfer scheme.
The centre has already accomplished laboratory-scale mRNA vaccine production and is progressing toward commercial production. The receiving countries’ training will commence in March 2022.
“This is mRNA technology designed in Africa, led by Africa and owned by Africa, with the support of Team Europe,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said.
The transfer hub, which was initially established in response to the COVID-19 emergency, might enhance production capacity to combat diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria in Africa.
Biovac, a consortium partner and partly state-owned South African vaccine manufacturer, will be the first to get the mRNA technology transfer, and will mass-produce the vaccine once it has overcome the appropriate safety and regulatory obstacles.
Argentina and Brazil are two other industrial “spokes” in the WHO’s hub-and-spoke design.
South Africa’s mRNA hub takes a global strategy, benefiting not only Africa but the entire world. According to the WHO, over 20 countries have requested access to the hub’s technology transfer.
The statement was hailed as a “welcome milestone” by Kate Stegeman, an advocacy coordinator for the international humanitarian organisation Medicins Sans Frontieres.
(Adapted from TheGuardian.com)