The World Health Organization (WHO) has reportedly announced that it is establishing the first COVID-19 messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine technology transfer hub in South Africa. This hub would provide companies from low- and middle-income countries with the know-how and licenses they need to manufacture vaccines.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa described the move as a historic step in terms of spreading life-saving technologies.
According to the WHO, the tech transfer hub would allow African firms to begin producing mRNA vaccines in a short period of nine to twelve months. The mRNA is an advanced technology currently used in vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.
Director-General of WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, announced the initiative in order to improve vaccination availability throughout the African continent, where coronavirus infections and fatalities have surged by over 40% in the last week.
During a press conference in Geneva on Monday, Tedros stated that WHO is in conversations with a group of firms and institutions in South Africa to establish a technology transfer hub.
Tedros elaborated, the collaboration includes a firm called Afrigen Biologics & Vaccines, which will serve as a hub by producing mRNA vaccines and offering training to another manufacturer called Biovac.
According to Cyril Ramaphosa, the program will alter the narrative of Africa as a hotbed of illness and underdevelopment.
This historic move marks a significant step forward in the global drive to strengthen vaccine development and production capability to put Africa on the road to self-determination, Ramaphosa added.
Advocacy Coordinator, MSF Access Campaign in South Africa, Kate Stegeman, stated that to increase the hub's chances of success, all pharmaceutical companies that share their technology with it through technology transfer contracts must do so in a transparent and non-restrictive manner: any licenses must include all poor and middle-income countries, and technology beneficiaries must be free to build on the platform technology to address other health threats.