President welcomes Biovac-Pfizer deal

The African Union Champion on COVID-19, President Cyril Ramaphosa, has welcomed the announcement that the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine will be produced in Cape Town by the Biovac Institute.

In a statement on Wednesday, the President welcomed the announcement of a collaboration between South Africa’s Biovac Institute and the global pharmaceutical producer Pfizer as a ‘breakthrough in the protection of African nations against COVID-19″.

“Today’s agreement will contribute significantly to health security and sustainability on our continent, which currently has the least access to vaccination in the world,” President Ramaphosa said.

Biovac is a vaccine producer and public-private partnership between the South African government and the private pharmaceutical sector.

“In terms of today’s announcement, Biovac has been appointed to manufacture the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for distribution within Africa, making it the first company on the continent to produce a mRNA-based vaccine.

“Biovac will immediately embark on technological transfer activities that include on-site development and equipment installation for the production of the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccines,” the Presidency said.

Biovac expects the facility will be brought into the Pfizer-BioNtech supply chain by the end of 2021. Biovac will obtain drug substance from BioNTech’s facilities in Germany.

“At full operational capacity, the annual COVID vaccine production will aim for 100 million finished doses annually. All doses will exclusively be distributed within the 55 African Union member states.

“Biovac’s expansion in production and acquisition of specialised equipment related to mRNA technology entails an investment of shared cost of R200 million in the coming six months,” the Presidency said.

President Ramaphosa said the partnership between Biovac and Pfizer is a breakthrough in the efforts to overcome global vaccine inequity.

“The protection of Africans is a necessary and critical contribution to the protection of humanity as a whole. This partnership demonstrates what we can achieve when the state sector and the private sector craft a shared vision and pool resources for the greater good of society.

“This collaboration recognises the talent and technology that exists on our continent that can be harnessed in our irreversible march of sustainable and inclusive development,” the President said.

He urged people throughout the continent to play their part by making themselves available to be vaccinated.

“The more we roll up our sleeves to receive our jabs, the safer we will be as individuals, families and communities. The safer we are, the more secure our future as a continent on the rise will be,” the President said.

African Union Special Envoy on COVID-19 and member of the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team, Strive Masiyiwa, joined the President in welcoming the Biovac-Pfizer initiative.

“The only way to guarantee Africa’s access to vaccines now and in the future is through this type of strategic manufacturing partnerships, which we welcome greatly,” Masiyiwa said.