South Africa has been granted a licence to manufacture one of the world’s most important vaccines. It’s the first time the country will be able to do so since the mid 1990s, and is news that will result in many positive spin-offs for the country.
The hexavalent vaccine Hexaxim is used to vaccinate children against six life-threatening infectious diseases: diphtheria, tetanus, acellular pertussis (whooping cough), inactivated polio, Haemophilus influenza type b and hepatitis B.
It is a vital component of South Africa’s expanded programme on immunisation and more than 3 million children are vaccinated every year. There are 14 vaccines administered between the ages of 0 and 2 years; four of these are Hexaxim.
As a result of this programme, the number of children under the age of five that have died has significantly dropped. In 2013, it sat at 47 409 children, down from 89 418 in 2005.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s the country produced some of its own vaccines. But this capacity disappeared in the mid-1990s; the State Vaccine Institute and the South African Vaccine Producer, both run by the national health department, closed down because they weren’t operating at the required levels of manufacturing practice.