The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday six African countries – Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia – would be the first on the continent to receive the technology needed to produce mRNA vaccines.
The technology transfer project, launched last year, aims to help low- and middle-income countries manufacture mRNA vaccines at scale and according to international standards.
mRNA is the advanced technology used by companies such as Pfizer- BioNTech PFE.N, 22UAy.DE and Moderna MRNA.O for their COVID-19 shots.
The WHO established its global mRNA technology transfer hub after vaccine hoarding by wealthy countries and by companies which prioritised sales to governments that could pay the highest price. This meant that low- and middle-income countries were pushed to the back of the queue for COVID-19 vaccines.
WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement that the COVID pandemic had demonstrated more than any other event how reliance on a few companies to supply global public goods was both limiting and dangerous.
“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,” he said.
South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa lauded the initiative and urged the global vaccine distribution scheme COVAX and vaccines alliance GAVI to buy vaccines from local manufacturing hubs.
“The lack of a market for vaccines produced in Africa is something that should be concerning to all of us,” Ramaphosa said. “Organizations such as COVAX and GAVI need to commit to buying vaccines from local manufacturers instead of going outside of those hubs that have been set up.” ~Reuters