The World Health Organization is in talks to create the first-ever technology transfer hub for Covid-19 vaccines in South Africa, a move that would boost supply to the African continent that’s desperately in need of doses.
The new consortium will include drug makers Biovac and Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines, a network of universities and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
They will develop training facilities for other vaccine makers to make shots that use a genetic code of the spike protein, known as mRNA vaccines.
“I’m delighted to announce that the WHO is in discussion with a consortium of companies and institutions to establish a technology transfer hub in South Africa. In time, Afrigen could provide training to other manufacturers in Africa and beyond,” WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
Many hope this initiative will help reduce inequalities when it comes to access to vaccines. Out of the more than 1 billion anti-Covid doses administered globally, less than 1% have been in poor countries.
With dozens of countries desperately waiting for more doses after the COVAX initiative, a U.N.-backed plan to distribute vaccines to poor countries faltered in recent months, the WHO has been trying to persuade rich countries to donate vaccines once their most vulnerable populations are immunized.
South African president Cyril Ramaphosa congratulated the creation of this technology transfer hub.
“This is a phenomenal step. We just cannot continue to rely on vaccines that are made outside of Africa because they never come, they never arrive on time and people continue to die, ” Cyril Ramaphosa said.
President Ramaphosa also added Africa will soon be able to “take responsibility” for the health of its own people. But it might take months for any new factories to start producing Covid-19 vaccines and some African countries, such as South Africa, Zambia, are already struggling with a recent surge of new contaminations.