Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia are the first six countries that will receive the technology needed to produce mRNA vaccines in the African continent, the World Health Organization (WHO) has announced.
The global mRNA technology transfer hub was established by the WHO in June, last year, to support manufacturers in low-and middle-income countries to produce their own vaccines, ensuring that they have all the necessary operating procedures and know-how to manufacture mRNA vaccines at scale and according to international standards.
While the hub is primarily set up to address the Covid-19 emergency, it has the potential to expand manufacturing capacity for other products as well, putting countries in the driver’s seat when it comes to the kinds of vaccines and other products they need to address their health priorities.
“No other event like the Covid-19 pandemic has shown that reliance on a few companies to supply global public goods is limiting, and dangerous,” said WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at the European Union – African Union summit in Brussels on Friday.
“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, with equitable access as their primary endpoint,” he added.
Depending on the infrastructure, workforce and clinical research and regulatory capacity in place, WHO and partners will work with the beneficiary countries to develop a roadmap and put in place the necessary training and support so that they can start producing vaccines as soon as possible.
The WHO mRNA technology transfer hub is part of a larger effort aimed at empowering low- and middle-income countries to produce their own vaccines, medicines and diagnostics to address health emergencies and reach universal health coverage.
The initial effort is centred on mRNA technologies and biologicals, which are important for vaccine manufacturing and can also be used for other products, such as insulin to treat diabetes, cancer medicines and, potentially, vaccines for other priority diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV.
The ultimate goal is to extend capacity building for national and regional production to all health technologies.
Africa’s first Covid mRNA vaccine technology-transfer hub has been set up in South Africa, with participants including Afrigen, the Biovac Institute and local universities.
Earlier this month, the researchers made microlitres of the vaccine based on Moderna’s Covid shot.
Moderna’s shot was chosen to replicate because more information on its development was available publicly, compared with Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine.