- Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tunisia selected
- mRNA used by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna for their COVID-19 shots
- Deal unveiled at EU-African Union summit in Brussels
The World Health Organization said on Friday six African countries – Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia – would be the first on the continent to receive the technology needed to produce mRNA vaccines.
The technology transfer project, launched last year in Cape Town, aims to help low- and middle-income countries manufacture mRNA vaccines at scale and according to international standards.
The WHO established its global mRNA technology transfer hub after large-scale vaccine purchases by wealthy countries and companies prioritising sales to governments that could pay the highest price. This pushed low- and middle-income countries to the back of the queue for COVID-19 vaccines.
In June last year, the WHO selected a consortium of South African companies to run the global mRNA hub, with Afrigen Biologics later using Moderna’s publicly available vaccine sequence to produce its own version of the U.S. company’s COVID shot. The first approval for doses made by Afrigen could come only in 2024, the WHO has said
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the pandemic had demonstrated more than any other event how reliance on a few companies to supply global public goods was both limiting and dangerous.
“In the mid- to long-term, the best way to address health emergencies and reach universal health coverage is to significantly increase the capacity of all regions to manufacture the health products they need,” he said in a statement.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa urged the global vaccine distribution scheme COVAX and vaccines alliance GAVI to buy vaccines from local manufacturing hubs.
“The lack of a market for vaccines produced in Africa is something that should be concerning to all of us,” Ramaphosa told a news conference on the sidelines of a European Union-African Union (AU) summit in Brussels.
“Organizations such as COVAX and GAVI need to commit to buying vaccines from local manufacturers instead of going outside of those hubs that have been set up.”