The Biovac Institute, a partially state-owned vaccine maker in South Africa, has produced its first batch of Covid-19 vaccines as part of an agreement that will see it fill and package up to 100 million doses a year with Pfizer Inc. and inoculation BioNtech SE.

The doses produced last week are the first Pfizer injections for the disease made in Africa and will be evaluated by South Africa’s Health Products Regulatory Authority before further batches are scheduled for commercial sale next year, she said. Morena Makoana, Executive Director, Officer Bivouac.

The agreement with Pfizer is part of a response by global pharmaceutical companies, including Moderna Inc and Johnson & Johnson, to criticism that they have done little to help poor countries during the worst days of the coronavirus pandemic. Richer countries stockpiled more vaccines than they could use, while poorer countries, many of which are in Africa, had little to give their citizens.

Johnson & Johnson has licensed South African company Aspen Pharmacare Holdings to manufacture its vaccine in South Africa, while Moderna plans to manufacture its vaccine on the continent.

Although the demand for vaccines has fallen worldwide and the latest variants cause less severe disease, medical scientists continue to push for the vaccinations because they reduce the chance of hospitalization and death. Cape Town-based Biovac is counting on continued demand for Pfizer’s shots as boosters or boosters to extend immunity.

“We’re going to enter the booster market,” Mahoana said shortly before walking past 130 ultra-cold freezers cooled to minus 75 degrees Celsius (minus 103 Fahrenheit) at Biovac’s facilities on Monday. Pfizer injections will be stored in freezers at the temperature necessary to ensure their effectiveness.

The World Health Organization has taken a different approach by establishing an mRNA Technology Center, also in Cape Town, which plans to have Afrigen Biologics Ltd. will develop its own Covid-19 vaccine and then transfer this know-how to at least 15 manufacturing facilities in low- and middle-income countries around the world.

Biovac, which plans to employ 584 people by the end of this year, up from just 30 in 2003, will be the first manufacturing company to receive a technology transfer from Afrigen and is investing in capacity that will allow it to produce its own vaccine substance, rather than simply getting it’s a substance from a company like Pfizer and then bottle and package it.

Mahoana said 2.5 billion rand ($144 million) would be raised for the expansion through financing mechanisms through a number of development finance institutions and the European Union.

Lenders include International Finance Corp, Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft GmbH, British International Investment Plc, African Development Bank, Proparco, Eskom Pension & Provident Fund and the US International Development Finance Corp.

© 2022 Bloomberg

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