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Ramaphosa, Macron Announce “Landmark” Plan to Produce mRNA Vaccines in South Africa

French President Emmanuel Macron and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa. Image sourced from The Sowetan.

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South Africa is set to build a new hub for manufacturing COVID-19 vaccines, announces President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Ramaphosa addressed a joint press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday. The conference was facilitated by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Macron, who referred to Ramaphosa as “my friend”, said that the partnership was the result of his state visit to South Africa at the end of last month.

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The WHO issued a call for Expression of Interest on 16 April to establish vaccine manufacturing hubs in South Africa in hopes of scaling up production and access to the jabs in the country. This is according to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

South Africa’s Biovac Institute was one of the companies that answered the call. Biovac Institute, already partnering with France, has made further collaborations with Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines, the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (ACDCP) and a network of universities to establish the continent first COVID messenger RNA vaccine technology transfer hub.

The Creation of Landmark Hub

Ramaphosa has said that the “landmark hub would be but the start of the process, and the laying of a foundation for health security for the “world’s most vulnerable”.

Though a step in the right direction, the President says, it will not stop South Africa from campaigning for the waiver of the agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) to enable poorer countries to manufacture their own vaccines.

“We would like the negotiations taking place [on the TRIPS waiver] to proceed with speed,” Ramaphosa said, quoted by News24.

“People in Africa are facing a rising wave of infections. In South Africa, we are facing a third wave which seems to be more severe than the first and the second one and the only defence that we have is that we have vaccines,” he said.

Vaccines for all of Africa

Ramaphosa said that this new initiative should be seen as a benefit for all of Africa, not just its southern tip.

“This landmark initiative is a major advance in the international effort to build vaccine development and manufacturing capacity that will put Africa on a path to self-determination,” Ramaphosa continued.

“South Africa welcomes the opportunity to host a vaccine technology transfer hub and to build on the capacity and expertise that already exists on the continent to contribute to this effort.”

Macron said it was a, “… great day for Africa” and for, “… all those who work towards more equitable access to health products.”

“I am proud for Biovac and our South African partners to have been selected by WHO, as France has been supporting them for years,” he continued.

The French President promised that France would continue supporting future initiatives equitable access to vaccines.

9 – 12 Months Before SA-Made Vaccines Reach Population

Estimates from the WHO suggest that it could take at least 9 months to a full year before the first vaccines manufactured in the hub to enter circulation.

By Luis Monzon
Follow Luis Monzon on Twitter
Follow IT News Africa on Twitter

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