Awka – The World Health Organization (WHO) says the Organization in collaboration with its COVAX partners, is working with a South African consortium to establish its first COVID mRNA vaccine technology transfer hub.
The consortium comprises Biovac, Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines, a network of universities and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The move follows WHO’s global call for Expression of Interest (EOI) on 16 April 2021, to establish COVID mRNA vaccine technology transfer hubs to scale up production and access to COVID vaccines.
The announcement follows the recent visit to South Africa by the President of France, Mr Emmanuel Macron, who said his country was committed to supporting efforts in Africa to scale up local manufacturing capacity of COVID-19 vaccines and other medical solutions.
“Today is a great day for Africa. It is also a great day for all those who work towards a more equitable access to health products. I am proud for Biovac and our South African partners to have been selected by WHO, as France has been supporting them for years. This initiative is the first of a long list to come, that we will keep supporting, with our partners, united in the belief that acting for global public goods is the fight of the century and that it cannot wait,” said President Macron.
A statement by from WHO Press corps, made available to TNC on Thursday, quotes Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General as saying that over the coming weeks, the partners will negotiate details with the Government of South Africa and public and private partners inside the country and from around the world.
“COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of local production to address health emergencies, strengthen regional health security and expand sustainable access to health products. The organizations complement one another, and can each take on different roles within the proposed collaboration. Biovac will act as developer, Afrigen as manufacturer and a consortium of universities, as academic supporters providing mRNA know-how, and Africa CDC for technical and regional support. The South African consortium benefits from having existing operating facilities that have spare capacity and because it has experience in technology transfers. It is also a global hub that can start training technology recipients immediately,” he said.
He continued; “Over the coming weeks, WHO will continue the rolling evaluation of other proposals and identify additional hubs, as needed, to contribute to health security and equity in all regions.
“Through the COVAX partnership, WHO will continue its assessment of potential mRNA technology donors and will launch subsequent calls for other technologies, such as viral vectors and proteins, in coming months.
“WHO is also hosting the Local production forum this week, to identify strategies to expand pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity in low- and middle-income countries for COVID-19 and other priority diseases.”
In his remarks, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said, “The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the full extent of the vaccine gap between developed and developing economies, and how that gap can severely undermine global health security. This landmark initiative is a major advance in the international effort to build vaccine development and manufacturing capacity that will put Africa on a path to self-determination. South Africa welcomes the opportunity to host a vaccine technology transfer hub and to build on the capacity and expertise that already exists on the continent to contribute to this effort.”