Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to be produced and distributed in Africa

Posted on Jul 21, 2021, 1:29 PMUpdated on Jul 21, 2021, 3:08 PM

BioNTech and Pfizer reach a new milestone in the expansion of their global production network for their Covid-19 vaccine. The two partners announced on Wednesday that they had signed a letter of intent with the South African pharmaceutical laboratory Biovac so that it assumes the manufacture and distribution of the vaccine for the entire African continent. Ultimately, “the annual production capacity will exceed 100 million doses” exclusively for the 55 African countries, indicate BioNTech and Pfizer in a press release.

The African continent seems so far to be neglected by vaccination: less than 2% of the population would be vaccinated at least once even though the Delta virus is wreaking havoc there. Several countries (including South Africa itself) report the saturation of their hospitals and fear, like India, a dramatic increase in the number of deaths.

The first doses available in 2022

The relief provided by the agreement with Biovac will not be immediate, however. In practice, the development of the laboratory plant in Cape Town and the installation of the necessary equipment will begin immediately. In addition, factories in Europe will supply it with the active principle. The manufactured doses are not expected to be ready for distribution until next year, once the plant’s integration into BioNTech-Pfizer’s global manufacturing network is completed.

This new partnership “testifies to the long-standing relationship we have with Pfizer through the Prevenar 13 vaccine,” says Morena Makhoana, CEO of Biovac. The American company and the partially owned South African state laboratory have been working together since 2015 to manufacture and distribute this vaccine against pneumococcal infections. Biovac has also obtained technology transfers from Sanofi Pasteur for the production of pediatric vaccines.

Latin America on BioNTech-Pfizer’s agenda

“Our goal is to enable people from all continents to manufacture and administer our vaccine while guaranteeing the quality of production as well as the doses of the vaccine,” said Ugur Sahin, co-founder of BioNTech. The Mainz-based laboratory has committed with Pfizer to deliver 2 billion doses to low-income countries in 2021 and 2022.

The distribution network of the two partners “now spans three continents and has more than 20 production sites”, they specify. “We will continue to explore and implement the possibilities of adding new partners to our supply network, particularly in Latin America, in order to accelerate access to Covid-19 vaccines”, specifies Albert Bourla, CEO of Pfizer.

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