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Cape Town becomes home to first mRNA vaccine technology transfer hub on the African continent

President Cyril Ramaphosa and the WHO director-General Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus. Picture: Tedros Ghebreyesus/Twitter

President Cyril Ramaphosa and the WHO director-General Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus. Picture: Tedros Ghebreyesus/Twitter

Published Feb 21, 2022

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Cape Town - South Africa and the World Health Organization have announced the first African beneficiaries of the very first mRNA vaccine technology transfer hub on the African continent.

Located at Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines in Cape Town, the mRNA vaccine technology transfer hub will capacitate and facilitate low to middle-income countries to enable the production of mRNA vaccines through training centres and will work with a network of technology recipients (spokes) from these countries.

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On Friday, the WHO director-General Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus said the first African countries to benefit from the hub are: South Africa, Egypt, Nigeria, Tunisia, Kenya and Senegal.

The countries’ heads of state gathered for the formal announcement hosted by WHO South Africa, the European Council, and France in Brussels, Belgium.

Dr Ghebreyesus said: “Currently, 116 countries are off track for our shared target of vaccinating 70% of the population of every country by the middle of this year. More than 80% of the population of Africa is yet to receive a single dose.

“Much of this inequity has been driven by the fact that globally vaccine production is concentrated in a few, mostly high-income countries.”

President Cyril Ramaphosa said countries serious about vaccine access should ensure that the Trips waiver (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) is approved.

“In South Africa, full operationalisation of the mRNA has been hampered by intellectual property barriers. This for us is a serious matter.

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“Another challenge related to the intellectual property barriers is the failure to transfer technology to the hub through non-exclusive licences to produce as well as to export and distribute the Covid-19 vaccines in low and middle-income countries, including through the Covax facility.

“The lack of a market for vaccines produced in Africa is something that should be concerning to all of us.”

European Council president Ursula von der Leyen said they’ve invested 40 million euros (about R685 million) as the Commission, with Germany, France and Belgium.

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“Today, of all the vaccines applied in Africa, one percent are produced in Africa. And rightly so, the goal is in 2040, to have reached the level of 60% of vaccines produced in Africa that are administered in Africa.”

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Cape Argus

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