World Health Organisation head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday he hopes African COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing sites will be identified and some even close to producing by the end of 2021, in the race to deliver more shots to the continent.

While Ghebreyesus did not provide specifics on which country, Reuters has reported that Senegal could begin producing COVID-19 vaccines next year under an agreement with Belgian biotech group Univercells aimed at boosting Africa’s drug-manufacturing ambitions.

Ghebreyesus also called on companies including Pfizer and Moderna, whose vaccines rely on so-called mRNA technology, to share their knowledge with the WHO’s COVID-19 Technology Access Pool, which aims to help speed up the transfer of vital pandemic-fighting technologies.

Senegal agreement

Univercells announced the signing of a letter of intent for collaboration with the Institut Pasteur in Senegal’s capital Dakar in April. The source shared details of the proposal, which were not made public.

Under the agreement, the Institut Pasteur would use vaccine production technology developed by Univercells to supply COVID-19 vaccine shots to countries across West Africa.

The institute would initially begin packaging and distributing vaccines produced by Univercells in Belgium early next year, the source involved in securing financing for the collaboration told Reuters.

Univercells would transfer its full production line to Senegal in the second half of 2022, the source said, adding that the company would train local staff so they could eventually run the operation.

Univercells chief investment officer Kate Antrobus, when asked about the timeframe for the project, confirmed that it could send vaccine doses to Senegal early next year.

She declined to comment on the exact date for a full vaccine production line in Senegal but of the timelines referenced she said: “I do not think they are unreasonable.”