South Africa’s vaccine roll-out programme received a boost as the country moved to take control of the local production of Covid-19 vaccines.
SOUTH Africa’s vaccine roll-out programme on Monday received a boost as the country moved to take control of the local production of Covid-19 vaccines.
President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the country would establish the first messenger RNA (mRNA) technology transfer hub for Covid-19 vaccines.
Ramaphosa said the hub would be established in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the government of France.
mRNA vaccines represent a promising alternative to conventional vaccine because of their high potency, their capacity for rapid development, and their potential for low-cost manufacture and safe administration.
However, the local technology hub could take up to nine months before it could produce its first doses of the life-saving vaccines.
Ramaphosa said the ability to manufacture vaccines, medicines and other health-related commodities would help to put Africa on a path to self-determination.
“We will be better able to plan for the entire value chain, from training a critical mass of young people, enhancing and maintaining our supply chain to ensuring the efficient use of medicines,” he said.
“As South Africa, we intend to pursue these objectives in close co-operation with other countries on the continent, enhancing regional trade and investing in science and innovation.”
South Africa’s vaccine roll-out programme has been slow after hitting a number of snags because of global supply challenges.
At least 3 percent of the population has been vaccinated so far.
This comes as South Africa was in the midst of a third wave of Covid-19. Infections have risen by more than 60 percent week-on-week and hospitalisation rates have soared.
However, newly reported cases of Covid-19 have declined for eight weeks in a row in rich countries, while the rate of decline in Africa has not eased.
Ramaphosa said the pandemic had revealed the full extent of the vaccine gap between developed and developing economies, and how that gap could severely undermine global health security.
The WHO has continued to call for the sharing of know-how, technology and licences, and the waiving of intellectual property rights to boost the manufacturing of vaccines.
WHO director-general Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus echoed Ramaphosa’s views. Tedros said the rise in infections was caused by the increased spread of variants, more social mixing, ineffective use of public and social measures, and vaccine inequity.
“The inequity in vaccines has demonstrated that in a crisis, low-income countries cannot rely on vaccine-producing countries to supply them with vaccines,” he said.