Biovac Institute, a Cape Town-based pharmaceutical firm, has announced its plans to manufacture and distribute the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. This is the first time the Coronavirus vaccine will be produced in Africa.
The move should help in catering to Africa’s growing demand for more vaccines amidst the recent spike in COVID-19 cases. Biovac will acquire a large batch of the vaccine ingredients from Europe and will focus on blending the components, adding them in vials as well as packaging for distribution.
The production is likely to begin in 2022, with an added goal of reaching over 100 million finished doses annually. Moreover, Biovac’s production will be supplied across 54 African countries.
Dr. Morena Makhoana, Chief Executive at Biovac, was reported saying that an alliance with Pfizer is a major step to increase the availability of effective COVID-19 vaccine among Africans.
However, some experts believe that although this is a major step in Africa’s fight against COVID-19, it is not yet enough to obtain vaccine independence on the continent. It appears that the agreement does not involve sharing Pfizer-BioNtech’s technology to independently produce vaccines at Biovac.
The vast majority of the Pfizer vaccine were sold through bilateral deals to rich countries, experts claimed. Only a small volume of doses was made available to the United Nations-backed effort to share vaccines fairly across the globe.
South Africa is heavily relying on the Pfizer vaccine for its mass inoculation drive. The country has also purchased 40 million doses which are said to arrive in weekly deliveries.
This vaccination drive is accelerating, with over 220,000 South Africans getting shots on weekdays. Around 5.5 million people have already received at least one dose, while 1.4 million are deemed to be fully vaccinated.
South Africa intends to vaccinate at least 67% of its population by early 2022. However, vaccination levels are relatively low across Africa.
According to Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, less than 2% of the 1.3 billion population have received at least one COVID-19 shot.
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