Through the partnership, announced on Tuesday, Cape Town-based Biovac is raising around $150 million to expand the capacity of an existing vaccine manufacturing plant in the South African city to produce a vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech. Nine institutions are in the consortium enabling Biovac to make the vaccine.
The manufacturer entered into an agreement with Pfizer in July with the goal of manufacturing up to 100 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine annually for use in Africa.
The partnership to expand Biovac’s manufacturing capacity is expected to bolster the response to COVID-19 in Africa and advance long-term health security throughout the continent.
According to the World Health Organization, there are fewer than 10 African manufacturers with vaccine production facilities.
Egypt and Morocco are cooperating with Sinopharm and Sinovac Biotech, two major COVID-19 producers in China, to make the vaccines for distribution across Africa.
Most African countries rely on COVID-19 vaccines provided by other countries and international organizations such as the United Nations Children’s Fund, supported by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.
Africa has the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rate of the world’s regions, held back by supply shortages.
While people in many developed countries have received a third COVID-19 vaccine dose, less than 10 percent of the population in some African countries have had the required two doses.
Craig Mitchell, the chief financial officer of Biovac, said COVID-19 has proved that a more geographical spread of vaccine manufacturing is needed globally, with Africa having the lowest vaccine manufacturers.
The consortium partners include the African Development Bank, the German Development Finance Institution, the United States International Development Finance Corporation, and the European Investment Bank.
Akinwumi Adesina, the president of the African Development Bank Group, said the move aligns with its 2030 Pharmaceutical Action Plan. It aims to increase the local production of pharmaceuticals to 70 percent of the supply by 2030, and for local production to reach 60 percent of the supply by 2040.
“Africa must become self-sufficient. Health security is fundamental to economic security,” Adesina said.
Makhtar Diop, managing director of the International Finance Corporation, said with strong partnerships and increased investment, manufacturers in Africa can ramp up domestic vaccine production to build a more resilient health sector and strengthen regional value chains.