South Africa has secured a substantial €20 million funding boost from Germany, earmarked to facilitate the acquisition of essential machinery required for the production of mRNA vaccines over the next five years. This significant investment was announced by Higher Education, Science, and Innovation Minister Blade Nzimande, marking a pivotal step forward in advancing mRNA vaccine technology on the African continent.
A cornerstone of this endeavour is the establishment of an mRNA technology transfer hub hosted by South Africa for the World Health Organization (WHO). This hub's primary objective is to expand sustainable mRNA vaccine manufacturing capacity in regions with limited or nonexistent capabilities.
Minister Nzimande emphasized that this initiative goes beyond equipment procurement. It aims to introduce cutting-edge technologies, promote regional research and development, enhance bio-manufacturing expertise, and cultivate a skilled workforce. Additionally, the project seeks to develop regulatory capacities to expedite regional approval and distribution of mRNA vaccines.
The grant, administered through Germany's KfW Development Bank, is exclusively dedicated to financing equipment essential for the development, production, and certification of active pharmaceutical ingredients required for vaccine production within South Africa.
The South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) will play a pivotal role as the project executing agency, working in close collaboration with a dedicated steering committee.
SAMRC Chief Executive Glenda Gray expressed enthusiasm about the program's potential impact, stating, "We are delighted to be part of this initiative, which will provide critical support for establishing a vaccine manufacturing industry in Sub-Saharan Africa. In addition to complementing the activities of the mRNA hub program, this partnership will address critical gaps in the pre-clinical research domain."
This initiative is a direct response to the global imperative for increased vaccine production capacity, a challenge magnified by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. It signifies a significant stride toward bolstering Africa's capabilities in vaccine production, ensuring greater access to life-saving vaccines for the continent and beyond.
Article by Nyokabi Wanjiku
Photo/Health Policy Watch