Cape Breton Post

WHO setting up hub to make vaccines in South Africa


GENEVA — The WHO is setting up a hub in South Africa to give companies from poor and middle-income countries the know-how and licenses to produce COVID19 vaccines, in what President Cyril Ramaphosa called an historic step to spread lifesaving technology.

The “tech transfer hub” could make it possible for African companies to begin manufactur­ing mRNA vaccines — the advanced technology now used in shots from Pfizer and Moderna — in as little as 9-12 months, the World Health Organizati­on said.

It announced two companies had signed up so far, and said it was in talks with Pfizer and Moderna about participat­ing.

“Through this initiative we will change the narrative of an Africa that is a centre of disease and poor developmen­t,” said Ramaphosa, speaking by video link at the WHO press conference where the programme was launched.

The WHO has long been calling for rich countries to share vaccine technology. The initiative to help African countries produce vaccines is especially urgent at a time when cases and deaths on the continent have increased by almost 40 per cent over the past week.

“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,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesu­s told a news conference.

In a statement, the WHO described the hub as a training facility, “where the technology is establishe­d at industrial scale and clinical developmen­t performed. Interested manufactur­ers from low- and middle-income countries can receive training and any necessary licenses to the technology.”

The two South African companies participat­ing so far were Afrigen Biologics, described as a developmen­t company, and Biovac, described as a manufactur­er.

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