South Africa's efforts to produce vaccines are key to helping the African continent become more self-sufficient in inoculations to combat COVID-19 and many other diseases, the visiting chief of the World Health Organization said Friday.
WHO director-general Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus was visiting Cape Town to view three facilities that are starting work to manufacture vaccines.
"More than half of the world's population is now fully vaccinated, and yet 84% of the population of Africa is yet to receive a single dose," Tedros said during a press briefing.
Tedros added there was an "urgent need" to increase local production of vaccines in low and middle-income countries.
He was also scheduled to visit the Afrigen lab that, with support from the WHO, is creating a COVID-19 vaccine from scratch.
The laboratory is replicating the Moderna vaccine using mRNA vaccine technology.
The Afrigen facility has backing from WHO and several other partners including the governments of South Africa, France and Belgium.
The initiative is also supported by the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Tedros said it is expected that clinical trials for the vaccine candidate developed by Afrigen would start in 2022 and it is hoped that approval for its use will be granted in 2024.