WHO Plans Vaccine Technical Transfer Hub in South Africa
(JOHANNESBURG) – The World Health Organization is in talks to create the first technology transfer center for coronavirus vaccines in South Africa, a move to increase supply to the continent that desperately needs COVID-19 strikes, the head of the UN agency announced.
The new consortium will include drug producers Biovac and Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines, a network of universities and the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They will develop training structures for other vaccine producers to make strokes using a genetic code of the spike protein, known as mRNA vaccines.
“We are currently in discussions with several companies that have indicated interest in providing their mRNA technology,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysus said in a virtual press release on Monday. This technology is used in the Pfizer-BioNTech and Modern vaccines.
Africa will soon be “taking responsibility for the health of our people,” as a result of the new technology transfer center supported by the WHO, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said in the press briefing.
Ramaphosa said it was “not fair and unfair” that some people would be denied access to COVID-19 vaccines.
Poor countries in Africa and elsewhere are facing a severe shortage of COVID-19 outbreaks despite some countries having the capacity to produce vaccines, laments Lara Dovifat, a campaigner and defense adviser for Doctors Without Borders.
“The faster companies share expertise, the faster we can end this pandemic,” he said in a statement.
Numerous factories in Canada, Bangladesh, Denmark and elsewhere have previously asked companies to immediately share their technology, saying their idle production lines could exploit millions of doses if they were not hampered by intellectual property and other restrictions. .
More than 1 billion coronavirus vaccines have been administered worldwide, but less than 1% have been administered in poor countries.
South Africa accounts for almost 40% of COVID-19 infections recorded in Africa and is currently suffering from rapid growth, but the spread of vaccines has been slow, marked by delayed deliveries among other factors.
South Africa currently does not manufacture COVID-19 vaccines from scratch, but its Aspen Pharmacare joins forces Johnson & Johnson by mixing large batches of ingredients sent by J&J and then bottling the product and packaging it, a process known as fill it ends. Earlier this month the company had to discard 2 million doses because they had ingredients produced in the United States in a factory under suspicious conditions.
South Africa’s current wave of infections threatens to overwhelm the country’s hospitals.
“The rise in the new cases has been extraordinarily rapid and steep over the past few weeks,” Ramaphosa said Monday in his weekly letter to the nation. “The number of nine cases each day jumped from under 800 in early April to more than 13,000 last week. In other words, it has increased more than 15 times since the last low point.”
The province of Gauteng, the most populous in the country with the cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria, is the hardest hit by the current stress with 60% of new homes. All public and private hospitals are full, yet the number of new confirmed cases continues to grow, the province’s deputy minister, David Makhura, said on Monday.
“I don’t want to send a message saying that everything is fine,” Makhura said. “I want to tell the people of the province: The house is on fire.”
WHO officials have said that while their new vaccine transfer technology will hopefully increase future supply, it will not face an immediate crisis, as it will take months for each new factory to start producing vaccines.
With dozens of countries desperately waiting for more doses after the COVAX initiative, a UN-backed plan to distribute vaccines to poor countries has changed in recent months, the WHO has tried to convince rich countries to donate vaccines once their most vulnerable populations are vaccinated.
But Dr Michael Ryan, the WHO’s head of emergency, acknowledged that countries have largely refused to share vaccines immediately.
“When we ask countries (to donate), they say,‘ Well, we have to vaccinate according to our priorities and our priorities are our citizens, ’” Ryan said.
He added that while the transfer of vaccine technology will help in the medium to long term, it will not help curb the current peak of infections.
“We do not use the vaccines available in the world to provide protection for the most vulnerable,” he said. “And the fact that we don’t have it … is a catastrophic moral failure.”