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South African firm to make the first Pfizer Covid vaccines in Africa next year

Production will begin in 2022 and doses will be distributed among Africa’s 54 countries.

A policeman receiving his Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine in Soweto, South Africa.
A policeman receiving his Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine in Soweto, South Africa.
Image: Alet Pretorius

A SOUTH AFRICAN firm will begin producing the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, the first time that the jab will be produced in Africa, Pfizer has announced.

The Biovac Institute based in Cape Town will manufacture the vaccine for distribution across Africa.

Biovac will receive large batch ingredients for the vaccine from Europe and will blend the components, put them in vials and package them for distribution.

The production will begin in 2022 with a goal of reaching more than 100 million finished doses annually.

Biovac’s production of doses will be distributed among Africa’s 54 countries.

The development is “a critical step” in increasing African’s access to an effective Covid-19 vaccine, Biovac chief executive Dr Morena Makhoana said.

Pfizer’s goal is to provide access to its vaccine to people everywhere, CEO Albert Bourla said.

But the vast majority of its vaccine doses have been sold in bilateral deals to rich countries and only a small amount was made available to the UN-backed effort to share Covid vaccines fairly.

South Africa is relying upon the Pfizer vaccine in its mass inoculation drive. It has purchased 40 million doses, which are arriving in weekly deliveries.

The Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine is already being produced in South Africa. Aspen Pharmacare’s factory in Gqeberha, formerly Port Elizabeth, is making the J&J vaccine in the same “fill and finish” process and has the capacity to make more than 200 million doses of the vaccine annually.

The J&J vaccines made in South Africa are also being distributed across the African continent.

South Africa’s vaccination drive is ramping up, with more than 220,000 people getting jabs on weekdays. More than 5.5 million of South Africa’s 60 million people have received at least one jab, with more than 1.4 million fully vaccinated, according to official figures today.

South Africa’s goal is to vaccinate about 67% of its population by February 2022.

In Ireland, deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn said today that over 65% of adults are now fully vaccinated and three-quarters have received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.

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Vaccination levels are low across Africa, with less than 2% of the continent’s population of 1.3 billion having received at least one jab, according to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

The UN-backed effort to deliver coronavirus vaccines worldwide known as Covax has stumbled badly in past months.

It has delivered only 200 million vaccines globally since February, while the US alone has administered more than 338 million doses.

After Covax’s biggest supplier — the Serum Institute of India — halted exports in March to deal with an explosive surge on the subcontinent, the agencies behind Covax, including the World Health Organization, resorted to begging rich countries for donations.

Most of the promised doses won’t arrive until next year and although Group of Seven countries pledged to donate a billion Covid-19 vaccines, that is far short of the 11 billion WHO says are needed to protect the world.

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