WHO (World Health Organization) is setting up a “tech transfer hub” in South Africa that would enable African companies to start manufacturing mRNA vaccines. This technology is used in some of the most promising vaccines against Covid-19 including Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech. WHO said the hub will be open in nine to 12 months.
The decision by WHO is welcomed by South African president Cyril Ramaphosa. He said that hub in the country would open doors to vaccine manufacturers in poor and middle-income nations to get all in-depth details around vaccine manufacturing and licenses for same.
Ramaphosa called it a historic step to make lifesaving technology available to all. He said, “This landmark initiative is a major advance in the international effort to build vaccine development and manufacturing capacity that will put Africa on a path to self-determination.”
South African president said while referring to proposal of intellectual property waiver on Covid-19 vaccines by WTO (World Trade Organization) said, “Today is historic and we see this as a step in the right direction but it does not distract us from our original proposal put together by India and South Africa that we should see a TRIPS waiver at the WTO.”
The announcement was made by WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. The African continent is currently facing a dire situation with extreme vaccine shortage amid the number of Covid-19 cases and deaths increased by over 40 percent in last week. During a press brief on Monday from Geneva, Mr. Tedros said, “Today I am delighted to announce that WHO is in discussions with a consortium of companies and institutions to establish a technology transfer hub in South Africa.”
“The consortium involves a company Afrigen Biologics & Vaccines, which will act as the hub both by manufacturing mRNA vaccines itself & by providing training to a manufacturer Biovac,” he added.
WHO Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan said that many options mainly small companies are under consideration currently. She added, “We are also in discussions with larger mRNA companies and hope very much they will come on board.”
Africa is struggling for vaccine availability even as the other countries are having them manufactured in billions. Ramaphosa said that unequal vaccine distribution among nations is main reason for slow vaccination rate across the world as cases keep on multiplying.