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Working with SA consortium to set up mRNA vaccine technology transfer hub: WHO 

WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Photo: WHO/Jean Germain

Geneva, June 21 (MNN) The World Health Organisation (WHO) said it and its COVAX partners are working with a South African consortium comprising Biovac, Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines, a network of universities and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to establish its first COVID mRNA vaccine technology transfer hub.

The move follows WHO’s global call for Expression of Interest (EOI) on April 16, 2021 to establish COVID mRNA vaccine technology transfer hubs to scale up production and access to COVID vaccines.

Over the coming weeks, the partners will negotiate details with the Government of South Africa and public and private partners inside the country and from around the world, the WHO said.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the full extent of the vaccine gap between developed and developing economies, and how that gap can severely undermine global health security. This landmark initiative is a major advance in the international effort to build vaccine development and manufacturing capacity that will put Africa on a path to self-determination. South Africa welcomes the opportunity to host a vaccine technology transfer hub and to build on the capacity and expertise that already exists on the continent to contribute to this effort.”

“This is great news, particularly for Africa, which has the least access to vaccines,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.

“COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of local production to address health emergencies, strengthen regional health security and expand sustainable access to health products.”

The announcement follows the recent visit to South Africa by French President Emmanuel Macron who said his country was committed to supporting efforts in Africa to scale up local manufacturing capacity of COVID-19 vaccines and other medical solutions.

“Today is a great day for Africa. It is also a great day for all those who work towards a more equitable access to health products. I am proud for Biovac and our South African partners to have been selected by WHO, as France has been supporting them for years,” President Macron said.

“This initiative is the first of a long list to come, that we will keep supporting, with our partners, united in the belief that acting for global public goods is the fight of the century and that it cannot wait.”

Technology transfer hubs are training facilities where the technology is established at industrial scale and clinical development performed.

Interested manufacturers from low- and middle-income countries can receive training and any necessary licences to the technology.
WHO and partners will bring in the production know-how, quality control and necessary licenses to a single entity to facilitate a broad and rapid technology transfer to multiple recipients.

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