Deputy President David Mabuza says the country is forging ahead with plans to manufacture COVID-19 vaccines locally.

This as South Africa and India continue to push for a waiver on some intellectual property rights for vaccines and medicines at the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

An independent panel’s report into the world’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has now recommended that the WTO urge pharmaceutical firms to hammer out an agreement on voluntary licensing and technology transfers to boost vaccine production.

Mabuza was answering questions at the National Assembly.

“As we take lessons from the implementation of SA’s COVID-19 response plan, we continue to forge ahead with plans of building capacity to manufacture COVID-19 vaccines locally. We are encouraged by recent announcements of an anticipated waiver on intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines that is proposed by SA and India and now supported by the US.”

Ramaphosa calls for building of innovative African medical manufacturing capability

Last month, President Cyril Ramaphosa says the COVID-19 pandemic has showcased Africa’s capabilities in science and in health response.

Speaking during the Africa Centre for Disease Control’s two-day conference on vaccine manufacturing, Ramaphosa said the talent and will are there, but resources are a challenge.

Ramaphosa said while the production of effective vaccines has provided hope for recovery, not all countries can share equally in the hope of having access to vaccines at the time they need them most. He said the challenge that many African countries face is that the supply of vaccines is currently too slow to meet their needs.

“Our immediate task, therefore, is to secure sufficient vaccine doses for African countries through the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team, which has made valuable progress through its engagements with manufacturers. This effort is supported by other initiatives to manufacture vaccines on the continent, where possible, under license and in collaboration with current manufacturers. The Aspen facility in South Africa, for example, will make some 220 million doses available following AVATT’s agreement with Johnson & Johnson.”

Hope for Africa’s vaccine production

The African Centre for Disease Control (Africa CDC) says it would like to see Africa produce up to 60% of vaccines used on the continent.

Currently, the continent imports 99% of all vaccines, while managing to manufacture only 1%.

The urgency to expand vaccine manufacturing has been spurred on by COVID-19 and the lack of access to vaccination.

CDC Director, John Nkengasong, says the target for increasing capacity is the year 2040.

Vaccine production and access in Africa: