COVID-19 Vaccines

South Africa, France plan first African mRNA Vaccine facility as continent gets $33bn IMF support

*South Africa, France and World Health Organisation are set to announce plans for Africa’s first COVID-19 Vaccine facility in view of the limited manufacturing capacity hurting COVID-19 inoculations on the African continent

*We need more (than $33billion IMF funds allotted to Africa) because our economies are going to need a lot of support and it is only fair, says South African President Cyril Ramaphosa

Gbenga Kayode | ConsumerConnect

In a strategic move to consolidate the recent push for foreign pharmaceutical companies to waive their intellectual property rights, and share their technology for COVID-19 Vaccines and treatments, South Africa, France and the World Health Organisation (WHO) are set to announce plans for Africa’s first COVID-19 Vaccine facility to be located in South Africa.

ConsumerConnect reports the proposed vaccine facility is designed to use messenger RNA, which is regarded as the breakthrough technology of the global inoculation effort.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s office in a statement Monday, June 21, 2021, said the “technology transfer hub” will be located in South Africa, while the official announcement is scheduled for 5 p.m. local time.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa

Recall that in regard to vaccine equity and limited COVID-19 vaccinations in the developing economies and emerging markets, South Africa and India in particular have been at the forefront of a campaign at the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

The campaign was aimed at pushing the leading pharmaceutical companies producing the Coronavirus Vaccines to waive their intellectual property rights and share their technology for COVID-19 vaccines and treatments to help end the pandemic.

It was learnt that a lack of manufacturing capacity on the African continent has constitute one of the barriers to effectively an efficiently inoculating the continent.

Messenger RNA, or mRNA, has been used for the first time to make vaccines during the Coronavirus health crisis.

Moderna Incorporated of the United States (US) and a combination of Pfizer Incorporated and Germany’s BioNTech SE have used the technology to make doses, which some trials have shown to be more effective than more traditionally made versions, says agency report.

Aspen Pharmacare Holdings Limited, in South Africa, and the state-owned BioVac Institute can produce vaccines in the country, it was learnt, but only have the ability to package the shots rather than make the raw materials.

BioVac, based in Cape Town, for instance, makes a pediatric vaccine under licence from France’s Sanofi Pasteur and has plans to build a COVID-19-focused plant in a partnership with ImmunityBio Inc. of the US.

Sanofi is working to produce its own mRNA Covid-19 vaccine, with early trial results expected in the third quarter of this year.

It also plans to make doses using the technology on behalf of other companies.

Ramaphosa demands additional IMF reserves for virus recovery in Africa

While harping on the leading pharmaceutical companies’ earlier apparent refusal to waiver vaccine patents, President Ramaphosa of South Africa has said that such a development has resulted in vaccine inequity in Africa and other parts of the world.

As the continent is about receiving $33billion of new International Monetary Fund (IMF) drawing rights, Ramaphosa urged developed economies to aid Africa’s post-pandemic recovery by allocating more IMF reserves to the Black continent.

The South African President in an interview at the Qatar Economic Forum Monday stated that Africa needs far more than the $33billion funds the global lender has earmarked for the continent to support economies ravaged by the disruptive Coronavirus pandemic.

He noted: “We need more because our economies are going to need a lot of support and it is only fair.

“The continent has been growing by leaps and bounds, and should receive that type of support because all of us must get out of this economic slump that has been brought on to us by COVID-19.”

The IMF is preparing to give its member countries the biggest resource injection in its history ─ $650 billion ─ to boost global liquidity, and help emerging and low-income countries to deal with mounting debt and COVID-19 crisis, report stated.

Meanwhile, as part of an enlarged support base for Africa to wriggle out of the pandemic-induced economic doldrums, President Emmanuel Macron of France has urged other wealthy countries of the world to follow the French example and commit to reallocating some of their so-called IMF special drawing rights to help boost’s Africa’s share of the funds.

Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of IMF, expects the Fund’s Board of Governors to vote on the proposed new SDRs by mid-August 2021, report said.

Sub-Saharan Africa’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) shrank 2.4% in 2020, and will likely only grow 2.8% this year, compared to a 7.7% expansion forecast in Asia and 3.9% in Europe, according to the World Bank.

The United Nations Economic Commission also estimates that Africa’s recovery from COVID-19 will cost $400billion.

Besides an increased share of SDRs, African countries also need debts to be canceled and additional support to be provided to those countries facing payment delays, Ramaphosa noted.

He added: “Without that support, Africa will forever be left behind.

“We can get up and get going with our own boot straps, but we do need that lift and developed economies have a duty.”

Vaccination programmes

In connection with the availability of additional funds, there would be acceleration in COVID-19 vaccination programmes in Africa, where countries have lacked the financial or organisational ability to negotiate their own supply deals with pharmaceutical companies, according to report.

Hitherto, the slow roll-out of vaccines has been exacerbated by institutions and countries that oppose patent waivers that would allow for more decentralised manufacturing of Coronavirus vaccines, Ramaphosa said.

The South African President further stated: “We see their refusal to waive this intellectual property provision that they have as part of vaccine nationalism and we just don’t understand the sense of it all.

“There should be a waiver for a three-year period to enable countries that have the capability to be able to produce the vaccines.”

He added: “The continued refusal leads to inequity on vaccines.

“We are facing an emergency that has affected the entire world, and it is totally unfair and wholly unjust that pharmaceutical companies as well as certain countries are refusing to allow this provision to be waived so that there can be mass production of these vaccines so that we can save lives.”

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