Story at a glance
- Pharmaceutical company BioNTech has announced plans to establish mRNA vaccine production facilities in Africa — part of a larger plan to combat diseases on the continent.
- An mRNA vaccine for tuberculosis could be up first on the African production plan.
- BioNTech’s announcement accompanies a series of initiatives to boost COVID-19 vaccinations in Africa.
As vaccine inequalities have risen to the fore of pandemic discussion, pharmaceutical company BioNTech has announced plans to establish mRNA vaccine production facilities in Africa — part of a larger plan to combat diseases on the continent.
“From the technology side, there is no reason why [vaccine production in Africa] should not be possible,” CEO Uğur Şahin told the Financial Times in a joint call with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, “And because there’s no reason anymore, we have to make it possible.”
Financial Times reported that the German company has increased COVID-19 vaccine production plans by nearly 500 million doses to 3 billion in 2021. Roughly 1 billion will be sold at cost to lower income countries, according to the outlet. An mRNA vaccine for tuberculosis could be up first on the African production plan.
Şahin told the Financial Times he’s hopeful to have trained a partner in Africa to “fill and finish” mRNA vaccine doses in about a year in addition to a rigorous, years-long process to produce the mRNA and combine it with nanoparticles.
BioNTech’s announcement accompanies a series of initiatives to boost COVID-19 vaccinations in Africa. Data shows that approximately 2.9 doses per 100 people have been administered across the continent.
The Biden administration will announce at this week’s Group of Seven summit that it expects to purchase and donate 500 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine to 100 countries across the globe.
The White House announced last week that the U.S. would send 80 million doses to needy countries by the end of June, with 75 percent to be distributed by the global vaccination initiative COVAX. Approximately 5 million of the doses would go to Africa.
Meanwhile, The Mastercard Foundation announced Tuesday that it will donate $1.3 billion to aid in the fight against COVID-19 and vaccine inequalities on the continent.
“Ensuring equitable access and delivery of vaccines across Africa is urgent,” Reeta Roy, the foundation’s CEO, said in a press release. “This initiative is about valuing all lives and accelerating the economic recovery of the continent.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) said Thursday that 90 percent of African countries will fail to meet their goals to vaccinate at least 10 percent of their populations by September. WHO regional director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, said the continent would need an extra 225 million doses to reach its target.
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