South Africa’s BioVac Institute will start offering Pfizer-BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine early next year after receiving the drug’s ingredients from Europe.
Biovac’s “fill and finish” deal with Pfizer, announced in July, makes it one of a handful of companies developing Covid-19 vaccines in Africa.
“We expect the Cape Town facility to be integrated into our supply chain by the end of this year,” Patrick van der Loo, Pfizer’s regional president for Africa and the Middle East, told a conference in Kigali on vaccine production in Africa.
“Biovac will obtain the drug substance from facilities in Europe and the production of finished doses will begin in early 2022,” he said.
Large Western pharmaceutical companies, including Pfizer, have been widely criticized for not doing enough to streamline vaccine production in developing countries.
Intellectual property rights are not transferable
In July, Pfizer’s CEO urged members of the World Trade Organization not to support the termination of some intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines – a proposal proposed by South Africa and India.
Biovac’s agreement with Pfizer covers the final stages of production where the vaccine is formulated and put into vials, but does not represent a transfer of the intellectual property that underpins the vaccine.
Van der Loo outlined the historical challenges faced by pharmaceutical companies on the continent, which explained the difficulties in starting local vaccine production.
Among these are irregular electricity and water supplies, which have been a problem in South Africa for years.
“Last year… water was rationed, which made it practically and ethically very difficult to obtain large quantities of water in the technology transfer phase and use it for testing in the equipment,” he said. For jobs in the biovac facility.