South Africa’s Biovac to manufacture Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine by 2022

Days after Africa hit 6 million cases, landmark supply deal reached to help expand vaccine access.

Today, 21 July 2021, Pfizer and BioNTech announced they had reached an agreement with the Biovac Institute to manufacture millions of vaccines from next year. The landmark deal will see the South African company process and distribute more than 100 million doses of the duo’s COVID-19 vaccine each year across the African continent. While the financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed, the letter of intent signed between the two companies and Biovac, which is partially owned by the South African government, will make it the first facility in the Southern Hemisphere to use the messenger RNA technology, which is the basis on which Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna’s vaccines are developed. It will also see the company play a significant role in addressing the vaccine shortages plaguing the continent.

This would also not be the first time Biovac partners with Pfizer. Since 2015, Biovac has had a partnership with Pfizer to formulate, package and distribute the Prevnar 13 vaccine, administered to children for protection against 13 types of pneumococcal bacteria. When functioning at full capacity, Biovac’s facility is expected to produce more than 100 million doses annually. Currently, Africa is in the midst of a third wave driven by the more contagious Delta variant and hit six million confirmed cases recently. However, it remains the least vaccinated continent due to supply limitations. While instruments such as the COVAX initiative had attempted to level the playing field, poorer countries across the world remain on the backfoot despite recurring pleas by the WHO for richer countries to ensure equitable access.