Pfizer and BioNTech, manufacturing Covid-19 vaccines in the US and Europe, disclosed their new deal with Biovac, a South African-based company, to produce vaccines for African Union (AU).
Biovac has been in partnership with Pfizer since 2015 for the production and distribution of Prevenar 13 pneumonia vaccine. It was also one of the companies that participated in WHO’s training on production and licencing of Covid-19 vaccines in South Africa.
What is left for Biovac, based in Cape Town, is to complete the last step of production which is the “fill and finish”.
“To facilitate Biovac’s involvement in the process, technical transfer, on-site development and equipment installation activities will begin immediately,” Pfizer-BioNtech announced on Wednesday.
The Covid-19 manufacturing companies added that the contents required to produce the jabs will arrive from their facilities based in Europe, while the manufacturing of finished doses will take off next year.
The companies are looking at 100 million doses per year in full operation capacity to distribute to all AU member states.
Prior to this development, Strive Masiyiwa, the AU’s special envoy to EU responsible for leading the procurement of Covid-19 vaccines blasted EU for not setting up a production center in Africa:
“The fact of the matter is the EU has vaccine factories. It has vaccine production centers across Europe. Not a single dose, not one vial has left a European factory for Africa. OK, when we’ve gone to talk to their manufacturers, they tell us that they are completely maxed out, meeting the needs of Europe.
We are referred to India, where a number of manufacturers exist that are manufacturing vaccines like the AstraZeneca vaccine under licence because Europe has to decide, you know, you can’t say you support us.
They have vaccinated so many of their own people that they can now watch football without masks. OK, our people have not been vaccinated. Less than 1% of our population has been vaccinated. That is just the facts,”
Comparing the number of persons vaccinated globally, Africa is way behind. So far, 43.7% in the European Union and about 50% in the United States have been fully vaccinated according to Our World in Data.
Hence, the debate for equal production and distribution system has been an issue at the WTO (World Trade Organization).
By Elijah Christopher
Elijah Christopher is a journalist at A New Touch Of Africa, is also a creative writer, a poet, and an IT enthusiast. He contributed to the collaborative poem written in celebration of Edwin Morgan Centenary, the first Glasgow poet laureate and Scottish national poet from the University of Glasgow. He loves meeting people and learning about new places, cultures, events, and lifestyles.