Biovac-Pfizer partnership is a breakthrough for Africa: Ramaphosa

21 July 2021 - 16:40
By amanda khoza AND Amanda Khoza
AU Covid-19 champion President Cyril Ramaphosa has welcomed a partnership between Biovac and Pfizer to produce the vaccine in SA. File photo.
Image: GCIS AU Covid-19 champion President Cyril Ramaphosa has welcomed a partnership between Biovac and Pfizer to produce the vaccine in SA. File photo.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has welcomed the announcement of a collaboration between SA’s Biovac Institute and global vaccine manufacturer Pfizer, saying the protection of Africans is a necessary and critical contribution to the protection of humanity as a whole.

“The partnership between Biovac and Pfizer is a breakthrough in our effort to overcome global vaccine inequity,” said Ramaphosa in his capacity as the AU champion on Covid-19.

Biovac and Pfizer announced on Wednesday that the Pfizer vaccine will be produced in Cape Town by the Biovac Institute. The institute is a vaccine producer in a private-public partnership with the government and pharmaceutical private sector.

“Today’s agreement will contribute significantly to health security and sustainability on our continent, which currently has the least access to vaccination in the world,” said Ramaphosa.

He said Biovac has been appointed to manufacture the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for distribution within Africa, making it the first company on the continent to produce an mRNA-based vaccine.

Ramaphosa said Biovac would immediately embark on technological transfer activities that include on-site development and equipment installation for the production of the Pfizer vaccines.

Biovac expects the facility will be brought into the Pfizer-BioNTech supply chain by the end of 2021 and will obtain drug substance from BioNTech’s facilities in Germany, he said.

At full operational capacity, the Covid vaccine production will aim for 100 million finished doses annually. All doses will exclusively be distributed within the 55 AU member states.

“Biovac’s expansion in production and acquisition of specialised equipment related to mRNA technology entails an investment of shared cost of R200m in the coming six months,” Ramaphosa said.

“This partnership demonstrates what we can achieve when the state sector and the private sector craft a shared vision and pool resources for the greater good of society.

“This collaboration recognises the talent and technology that exists on our continent that can be harnessed in our irreversible march of sustainable and inclusive development.

“The more we roll up our sleeves to receive our jabs, the safer we will be as individuals, families and communities. The safer we are, the more secure our future as a continent on the rise will be.”

AU special envoy on Covid-19 and member of the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team,  Strive Masiyiwa, also welcomed the initiative, saying: “The only way to guarantee Africa’s access to vaccines now and in the future is through this type of strategic manufacturing partnerships, which we welcome greatly.”