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South Africa: WHO head visits vaccine technology transfer hub

World Health Organisation (WHO) head Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, second from right, visits the Biomedical Research Institute at Stellenbosch University's Faculty.   -  
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South Africa

Tedros Ghebreyesus was on a working visit on Friday. With a delegation comprising S.A ministers of Higher Education and Health and Belgian Minister of Development Cooperation, Dr. Tedros visited the Cape Town-based hub.

World Health Organization head Tedros Ghebreyesus was on a working visit on Friday. Accompanied by a delegation comprising European diplomats and South African ministers, he visited the WHO mRNA vaccine technology transfer hub in Cape Town South Africa.

It is in the facility of the biotechnology company Afrigen Biologics that the delegation was presented the progress achieved to secure more doses.

The biotechnology company was selected, in June last year, to be part of the hub aimed at strengthening vaccine manufacturing. "Although we chose South Africa as a centre, the idea is to build global capacity especially in low-income countries to have their own capacity so the equity issues are addressed in the future", Dr. Tedros said.

Major boost for local and regional fight against Covid

To accomplish this vaccine mission, Afrigen Biologics leads a consortium comprised of the South African Medical Research Council and Biovac, a local vaccine producer. The hub that was the first appointed in Africa by the WHO can bring about major change to low, middle-income countries. At the moment, 16.5% of Africans have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose. In the long-term, the hub will supply high-income countries. And produce vaccines for different deseases.

Tedros Ghebreyesus hopes it will be revolutionary: "This is an investment that could possibly be a game changer in combatting the major diseases. So this is big and whatever time it takes, key is, as they were saying, the quality of it."

Last week, Afrigen Biologics was lauded after it announced it had developed its own version of a mRNA shot, based on the publicly available data on the composition of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

On Saturday, Dr. Tedros’s delegation will visit other local vaccine-production sites. They all receive training and financial support from the WHO. Since the initiative is supported by the organisation, The Medicines Patent Pool and the Act-Accelerator/COVAX.

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