JOHANNESBURG ( Associated Press) – South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has opened a new vaccine manufacturing facility that he says will boost the country’s ability to make its own vaccinations for diseases including COVID-19.
Ramaphosa said on Wednesday that the plant in Cape Town – a US-based biotechnology firm, a partnership between the government and South African universities – would help improve Africa’s capacity to produce vaccines.
“The pandemic has exposed the vast disparities that exist between countries in access to quality health care, medicines, diagnostics and vaccines,” Ramaphosa said. He said Africa is responding to COVID-19 with “the depth of scientific knowledge, expertise and capacity” to create its own vaccines.
According to local reports, the factory was also commissioned by Patrick Soon-shiong, the South African-born founder of Nantworks, a multinational biotechnology firm based in the United States, which has invested approximately $200 million to start the facility. .
Soon-shiong said the new plant aims to reach the goal of producing 1 billion vaccines annually by 2025.
South Africa’s Aspen Pharmacare already assembles the J&J COVID-19 vaccine at a factory in Gakberha, known as Port Elizabeth. The Aspen facility mixes the imported components of the vaccine and pours it into vials and packages the doses, a process known as fill-and-finish. That facility has a capacity for 220 million vaccines per year and is selling them to South Africa and other African countries.
Another vaccine production plant in South Africa is operated by the BioVac Institute in Cape Town in partnership with Pfizer-BioNTech, to produce 100 million of its vaccine doses annually.
Ramaphosa said Africa has secured 500 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines through the African Union’s Vaccine Acquisition Task Force, but the continent needs more.
“These doses represent almost half of the 900 million people the continent needs to vaccinate to achieve the 70% target set by the World Health Organization,” Ramaphosa said.
In addition to making vaccines for COVID-19, the new facility will focus on developing products to fight HIV, various types of cancer and other diseases that may not be a major problem in other parts of the world, but in Africa. There are major health problems.
The new facility will help address the public health challenges facing the continent, according to John Nkengsong, director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who spoke over a video call.
“This pandemic has closed the continent in terms of access to health protection items, which are diagnostics, vaccines and therapeutics,” he said. “The continent has adopted a new public health mandate that tells us of the need to manufacture vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics.”