Six African countries to receive initial transfer of mRNA vaccine technology – Egypt

Six African countries – Egypt, Senegal, Kenya, South Africa, Tunisia and Nigeria – became the first African recipients of mRNA technology as part of a global mRNA transfer initiative.

An mRNA vaccine is a type of vaccine that uses a copy of a molecule called messenger RNA (mRNA) to elicit an immune response.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, French President Emmanuel Macron, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedras Gebreyes and European Council President Charles Michel made a joint statement at last week’s European Union and African Union summit in Brussels. The summit was attended by the President of the African Development Bank, Dr. Akinwumi A. Odessa, who advocated for the production of vaccines in Africa.

This announcement marks a major step forward in the development of mRNA vaccine technology in Africa, the goal of the continent’s leaders. This was exacerbated by the pronounced inequality of vaccines that emerged after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Following the model initiative of the Center and Spokes, in Cape Town, South Africa, a center was established consisting of Afrigen Biologics, South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) and Biovac, a South African vaccine manufacturer, which is also the first appearance of the program. .

Afrigen’s mandate is to develop mRNA vaccine technology. SAMRC provides research, while Biovac is the first production needle.

The hub will share technology and technical know-how related to the production and licensing of mRNA vaccines, with local manufacturers in six recently announced “spokes”.

Speaking at a news conference to announce the development, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said: “As one of the leaders in the region and in biomedical research, Kenya is truly honored to be named one of the beneficiary countries of the mRNA transfer program. And it shows how many scientists are present in our institutions, in our region and, indeed, on the whole continent. ”

Senegalese President Mackie Sal said: “This is a great day for Africa, Europe and our summit.”

Tunisian President Kais Said (external link) thanked the partners of the initiative, saying that “Tunisia will cope with the problem as one of the producers.”

Partners of the global mRNA transfer initiative are the WHO, the Patent Pool of Medicines, Act-Accelerator / COVAX, the African Union and the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Tedras Gebreies of the WHO commented on the pace of development of coronavirus vaccines. Despite this, “more than 80% of the African population has not yet received a single dose. Tedras said one of the most important lessons of the pandemic is the urgent need to expand vaccine production in low- and middle-income countries.

He said the technology transfer center will provide an opportunity to train vaccine manufacturers as well as obtain licenses for it.

“We expect the benefits of this initiative to go far beyond Covid-19, creating a platform for vaccines against malaria, tuberculosis and even cancer,” Tedros said, adding: “This is a strategic investment.”

President Cyril Ramaphosa stressed the importance of cooperation. He said: “Working together is a huge benefit. The partnership between Afrigen and the University of Vitswatersrand is very profitable because Wits has been working on mRNA technology for the last 10 years. ” He also highlighted the successful partnership in genomic surveillance between South Africa and Nigeria.

Ramaphosa also joined Macron, stressing the importance of markets as well as pharmaceutical production. “Organizations such as COVAX and GAVI should commit to buying vaccines from local manufacturers, and not go beyond the centers that will be established,” he said.

Speakers also complained about the obstacle posed by current intellectual property rules. which they described as placing income above human lives. Tunisian President Kais Saeed (external link) said: “We need to take a different approach to intellectual property when it comes to issues that affect all of humanity. We have to solve this. ”

Speaking on behalf of the European team, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stressed the need for balance. She said: “It is important to limit the profitability of the owners of individual entrepreneurs, ie companies, with the help of this technology transfer, while protecting the intellectual property developed by scientists here as well. I think we can find a bridge. We believe that compulsory licensing with limited significant income can be the bride we build together. ”

The European team is committed to creating an enabling environment for local vaccine production in Africa and removing the barrier to supply and demand with the support of 1 billion euros.

The African Development Bank supports the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and has pledged $ 3 billion over the next ten years to develop vaccine production and achieve the African Union’s goal of having 60% of vaccines used on the continent produced by 2040 by 2040.

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