South Africa may soon become the first African country to produce COVID-19 vaccine, as the country moves to sign a deal to help produce the vaccine.
This may potentially increase access to immunization for the African continent which has limited manufacturing capacity.
The Chairperson of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, Helen Rees, said that Cape Town-based Biovac Institute is being considered as a fill-finish site by her organization. The state-owned vaccine company is regarded as one of the few in the country that has the capacity to package doses into sterile dispensers once clinical trials are successful.
“Covid-19 has really thrown into focus that we have very limited capacity for vaccine manufacturing across the African continent, even in countries like South Africa. But there’s tremendous interest and we need to have more countries being able to manufacture vaccines,” Rees said.
Biovac’s Chief Executive Officer, Morena Makhoana, while answering questions regarding this said, “What we are looking at is partnerships. Once that is signed, we will be able to make an announcement.’’
Makhoana disclosed that a production agreement will put Africa on a similar path to other continents just as they are doing with the clinical trials.
South Africa is the only African country with several clinical studies, with 2,000 people in the AstraZeneca and University of Oxford vaccine trial and Novavax Inc announcing the commencement of phase 2b clinical trial earlier this month.
Meanwhile, the Chief Executive Officer of the South African Medical Research Council, Glenda Gray, said that 20% of the 60,000 volunteers that has been slated for enrollment globally in the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine trial will be in South Africa.
This will come as a welcome development to South Africa which currently has 615,701 confirmed cases with 13,502 confirmed deaths, the highest in the continent by far. The country is currently probing corruption allegations against some government officials over some COVID-19 related government contracts.
It can be recalled that in a related development, Pfizer had assured Nigeria of COVID-19 vaccine as the country remains a priority, once the vaccine has been certified. This assurance took place during a virtual meeting with Nigeria’s Vice President, Yemi Osibajo, during a virtual meeting where he sought for supply of the Covid-19 vaccine from the developers once they are ready.