Pfizer and BioNTech laboratories will carry out the final stage of the production of their vaccine against Covid-19 in Cape Town, South Africa, from 2022, to largely supply the African continent where the lack of doses slows down the immunization campaigns.
The U.S.-German duo has partnered with the Biovac Group with the goal of supplying up to 100 million doses per year "exclusively" to the 55 "African Union member countries," according to a statement detailing the alliance's first partnership outside Europe and North America.
The serum will be shipped from the two laboratories' European factories, which will retain control over the manufacture of the messenger RNA, the most delicate and crucial step. The bottling phase will be carried out in Cape Town.
The transfer of technologies and the installation of the machines needed to take part in the manufacturing will start "immediately", according to a press release.
"This is a crucial step in strengthening sustainable access to vaccines" and the collaboration "will enable wider distribution of doses to people in hard-to-reach communities, especially on the African continent," commented Morena Makhoana, CEO of Biovac.
Geographical inequalities remain glaring in the face of the pandemic, with on one side developed nations that have implemented vaccination programs all over the place, and on the other the poorest countries, very late: 1.6% of doses administered worldwide were in Africa, which represents 17% of the world's population, according to data compiled by the AFP.
"This is great and good news," John Nkengasong, director of the African Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), told AFP. In the fight against the pandemic, "every action counts," he added.
The WHO recently estimated that only 2% of Africans, or 16 million people, were fully immunized.
Currently, another Covid-19 vaccine, Johnson & Johnson's single-dose Janssen, is being bottled at a plant in South Africa.