South Africa’s Biovac Institute has outlined the process it will undergo to begin manufacturing the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

Pfizer and BioNTech have announced a deal with Cape Town-based Biovac to process and distribute over 100 million vaccine doses a year for the African Union, beginning in 2022.

The vaccines are considered among the most effective against the coronavirus, including the highly infectious Delta variant.

Biovac CEO Dr Morena Makhoana says: “The Pfizer vaccine, the same one that is being rolled out in the country, we will now be manufacturing in Cape Town. So the process is going to be a formulation to finish. We will be receiving the raw ingredients from Pfizer’s facility in Europe and we will be doing a downstream process which is for the finish.”

In the video below, Dr Makhoana provides more details: 

Benefits for the continent

The Department of Science and Technology says Africa will benefit significantly from a deal between Pfizer/BioNTech and South Africa’s Biovac Institute – which paves the way for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to be manufactured on the continent.

Deputy Director-General Mmboneni Muofhe says: “This is a very significant step for SA and the continent. We were so reliant on imports in the continent and that is why the vaccination programme lagged behind so much. So, if we have this manufacturing capability in our backyard, this is going to put us in a position wherein a future pandemic we will be able to respond timeously. In our countries, as soon as there was an outbreak, they could respond. So, this is where we are going as a continent.

Meanwhile, President Cyril Ramaphosa, in his capacity as African Union Champion on COVID-19, on Wednesday welcomed the announcement of the collaboration.

“Today’s agreement will contribute significantly to health security and sustainability on our continent, which currently has the least access to vaccination in the world,” he says.

Ramaphosa added: “The partnership between Biovac and Pfizer is a breakthrough in our effort to overcome global vaccine inequity. The protection of Africans is a necessary and critical contribution to the protection of humanity as a whole. This partnership demonstrates what we can achieve when the state sector and the private sector craft a shared vision and pool resources for the greater good of society.”

Biovac has been appointed to manufacture the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for distribution within Africa, making it the first company on the continent to produce an mRNA-based vaccine.