Pfizer and Nasdaq-listed BioNTech SE have signed an agreement with the Cape Town-based-Biovac Institute to make up to 100 million doses a year of Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for distribution across Africa. Photo: Christof STACHE / AFP
Pfizer and Nasdaq-listed BioNTech SE have signed an agreement with the Cape Town-based-Biovac Institute to make up to 100 million doses a year of Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for distribution across Africa. Photo: Christof STACHE / AFP

Pfizer and BioNTech to start making Covid-19 vaccine at Biovac in Cape Town

By Edward West Time of article published Jul 22, 2021

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PFIZER and Nasdaq-listed BioNTech SE have signed an agreement with the Cape Town-based-Biovac Institute to make up to 100 million doses a year of Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for distribution across Africa.

Pfizer said in a statement yesterday the agreement with Biovac meant its global vaccine supply chain and manufacturing network would span three continents and include more than 20 manufacturing facilities.

Africa has only so far received about 38 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines on a continent of 1.2 billion people, according to WHO estimates.

“To facilitate Biovac’s involvement in the process, technical transfer, on-site development and equipment installation activities will begin immediately,” the group said.

Biovac’s manufacturing of the Pfizer vaccine will be the second production plant of Covid-19 vaccine in South Africa – Aspen makes the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in Gqeberha.

Biovac chief executive Dr Morena Mahoana said: “This is testament of the long-standing relationship we have had with Pfizer through the Prevenar 13 vaccine.

“It is a critical step forward in strengthening sustainable access to a vaccine in the fight against this tragic, worldwide pandemic. We believe this collaboration will create an opportunity to more broadly distribute vaccine doses to people in harder-to-reach communities, especially those on the African continent,” he said.

Pfizer and BioNTech expect Biovac’s Cape Town facility to be incorporated into the vaccine supply chain by the end of 2021. Biovac would obtain drug substance from facilities in Europe, and the manufacturing of finished doses would start next year.

The operational capacity of up to 100 million doses annually would be exclusively distributed within the 55 states that comprise the African Union (AU).

“From day one, our goal has been to provide fair and equitable access of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine to everyone, everywhere,” Pfizer chairperson and chief executive Albert Bourla said in the statement.

“We believe our mRNA technology can be used to develop vaccine candidates addressing other diseases as well. This is why we will continue to evaluate sustainable approaches that will support the development and production of mRNA vaccines on the African continent,” he said.

Pfizer and Biovac have worked together since 2015 on the sterile formulation, fill, finish and distribution of the Prevenar 13 vaccine.

Pfizer and BioNTech have to date shipped more than 1 billion Covid-19 vaccine doses to more than 100 countries or territories in every region. It is working with governments and global health partners to provide 2 billion doses of vaccine to low- and middleincome countries in 2021 and 2022 – 1 billion each year.

This included an agreement to supply 500 million doses to the US government at a not-for-profit price, that the government would donate to the AU and the Covax 92 Advanced Market Commitment countries, as well as a direct supply agreement with the Covax facility for 40 million doses.

Western Cape Finance and Economic Opportunities MEC David Maynier said the Biovac Institute had long been a centre of excellence for the development and manufacture of quality vaccines for Africa.

“This announcement is also a welcome boost of confidence to the economy in Cape Town and the Western Cape, which is already a leading hub for health tech and innovation in the medical sector – the province has one of the highest concentrations of medical device and healthcare companies in the country,” he said.

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