Biovac-Pfizer Collaboration a Breakthrough for Covid-19 in Africa: President Ramaphosa

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South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has welcomed the announcement of a collaboration between the country’s Biovac Institute and US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer as a breakthrough in the protection of African nations against Covid-19. Biovac and Pfizer announced on Wednesday that the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine would be produced in Cape Town by the Biovac Institute, which manufactures vaccines in a public-private partnership between the South African government and the pharmaceutical sector.

Speaking in his capacity as African Union Champion on Covid-19, President Ramaphosa said, (this) agreement will contribute significantly to health security and sustainability on our continent, which currently has the least access to vaccination in the world. 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.

The partnership between Biovac and Pfizer is a breakthrough in our effort to overcome global vaccine inequity. The protection of Africans is a necessary and critical contribution to the protection of humanity as a whole, 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 president added.

Albert Bourla, Pfizer Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, said at the announcement that the collaboration with Biovac was an example of the intention since the onset of Covid-19 vaccine production was to benefit the entire globe. We will continue to explore and pursue opportunities to bring new partners into our supply chain network, including in Latin America, to further accelerate access of Covid-19 vaccines, Bourla said.

Ugur Sahin, CEO and co-founder of BioNTech, said the company aimed at enabling people on all continents to manufacture and distribute its vaccine while ensuring the quality of the manufacturing process and the doses. We believe that our mRNA technology can be used to develop vaccine candidates addressing other diseases as well. This is why we will continue to evaluate sustainable approaches that will support the development and production of mRNA vaccines on the African continent, Sahin said.

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Dr Morena Makhoana, CEO of Biovac, said the new collaborations would create the opportunity to more broadly distribute vaccine doses to people in harder-to-reach communities, especially those on the African continent. Biovac will obtain drug substance from BioNTech’s facilities in Germany, with projected supply of the vaccine in the Pfizer-BioNTech supply chain by the end of 2021.

At full operational capacity, the annual Covid-19 vaccine production will target 100 million finished doses annually, all of which will be distributed within the 55 African Union member states.

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