In a statement released on Wednesday, the two companies said that Cape Town-based Biovac would complete the final stage of the manufacturing process, known as the “fill and finish,” of the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine.
“To facilitate Biovac’s involvement in the process, technical transfer, on-site development and equipment installation activities will begin immediately,” the statement said.
The ingredients to produce the jabs will come from factories based in Europe, while manufacturing of the finished doses will begin in 2022, he added.
The companies expect that at “full operating capacity”, Biovac’s annual production will reach 100 million doses per year – which will be distributed among AU member states.
The partnership’s announcement came amid growing calls to close a striking gap in global vaccine distribution. According to Our World in Data, only 1.5% of Africans are fully vaccinated, compared to 43.7% in the European Union and almost 50% in the United States.
Unequal distribution has been a source of debate for months at the World Trade Organization as developing countries, led by India and South Africa, pushed for a proposal to temporarily lift property rights. Intellectual Property (IP) on vaccines to increase global manufacturing capacity.
Without intellectual property, among other issues, manufacturing companies wouldn’t risk being sued for producing jabs without a license from the vaccine company.
But the proposal, submitted in October and backed by a majority of WTO members, has met opposition from a handful of wealthy countries who claim such a waiver would hamper technological innovation.
Last month, the World Health Organization announced that it was setting up a center or training center in South Africa to give companies there the know-how and licenses to produce COVID vaccines. -19.
Biovac was one of the first participants in the hub. It has partnered with Pfizer since 2015 to manufacture and distribute its Prevenar 13 pneumonia vaccine.