By Lerato Ndlovu
The World Health Organization (WHO) and its COVAX partners are working with a South African consortium comprising of Biovac, Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines, a network of universities and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to establish its first COVID mRNA vaccine technology transfer hub.
The initiative was put forward by the President of France, Emmanuel Macron after having visited the country.
Macron stated that 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.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said the 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.”
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General stated that this is a great initiative for Africa which has the least access to vaccines and the pandemic has highlighted the importance of local production to address health emergencies, strengthen regional health security and expand sustainable access to health products.
Technology transfer hubs are training facilities where the technology is established at industrial scale and clinical development performed. Interested manufacturers from low and middle-income countries can receive training and any necessary licenses to the technology.
WHO and partners will bring in the production know-how, quality control and necessary licenses to a single entity to facilitate a broad and rapid technology transfer to multiple recipients.
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.