The Germany’s BioNTech and Pfizer that developed the first mRNA vaccine against the COVID-19, has unveiled mobile vaccine production units house in shipping containers on Wednesday.
Aimed at bringing manufacturing to Africa.
The CEO and co-founder of BioNTech, Ugur Sahin, said, “The question was, can we make the process compact enough to fit in a container?”
The group said in a statement that they aims to start establishing the “first manufacturing facility in the African Union” in “mid-2022.
The company said, “we expected to ship the ‘BioNTainers’ to Rwanda and Senegal.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame and his Senegalese counterpart Macky Sall attended the announcement at BioNTech’s mRNA production site in Marburg, Germany, along with Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo and World Health Organisation Boss, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Africa is the least-vaccinated continent on Earth.
Over a year after the first coronavirus vaccines were administered and two years since the start of the pandemic, just under 12 per cent of Africans have been fully vaccinated.
According to the Sahin, earlier this month, the South African biotech company Biologics announced it had produced the continent’s first coronavirus vaccine based on mRNA technology, using the publically available genetic code used by BioNTech rival Moderna.
He said BioNTech, which has sold tens of millions of vaccines developed together with US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, was aiming to “install production sites for our mRNA technology on every continent”.
“South Africa could ‘potentially’ join the list of recipients of the mobile labs,” BioNTech said.
The 12 containers that make up the lab are split into two modules, one for the production of mRNA and the other for the vaccine serum, before local partners take over the filling of the vials.
Sahin explained that, “making the vaccine involves some 50,000 steps that have to be followed meticulously.
But the containers overcome this challenge by having ‘the process pre-validated’ before they are installed.
He further said, opening a new factory to today’s high standards typically takes three years.
It will be 12 months before the first doses produced by the container labs are available.
The containers could also be used to produce vaccines against malaria based on mRNA technology, were it to be authorised after clinical trials planned to begin this year.
“BioNTech employees will follow the containers, to begin with, while training local employees to hand over the site in the mid- or long-term”, according to the statement.
The vaccine technology will be shared without the patents behind it being waived, as requested by a number of countries and NGOs.
“Patents aren’t the key.
When we install the technology and hand it over to a partner, they will also get the licence to operate it.
BioNTech would assure the responsible use,” he said.
COVID-19: BioNTech to ship mobile vaccine laboratories to Africa