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News > South Africa

South Africa To Produce COVID-19 Vaccines Using mRNA Tech

  • Vaccination in Phuthalitjhaba town, South Africa, June 18, 2021.

    Vaccination in Phuthalitjhaba town, South Africa, June 18, 2021. | Photo: Twitter/ @FSRedCross

Published 21 June 2021

If pharmaceutical companies transfer technology, this nation could be producing its own vaccines within nine to twelve months.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and France will support the creation in South Africa of a center dedicated to the production of COVID-19 vaccines using messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA)-based technologies.


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"Relying on a few companies to supply global public goods is restrictive and dangerous," the WHO Director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said and stressed that the pandemic demonstrates that "resource-poor countries cannot rely on vaccine-producing countries to supply their needs."

Vaccines based on mRNA techniques induce human cells to produce certain proteins. This principle is being applied in vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna. In addition, however, the technique could be applied to the development of vaccines for other diseases such as malaria.

"It is not fair and it cannot be right that the lives of rich countries are worth much more than those of poor countries," said South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa, who was optimistic that a temporary lifting of intellectual property rights on COVID-19 vaccines could be achieved.

The South African "tech hub” project is currently in negotiations with big Pharma companies and the WHO will be in charge of overseeing the criteria for the transfer of knowledge to the center.

While there is no date yet for the launch of the tech hub, WHO Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan considers that South Africa could be producing vaccines with the mRNA technology within 9 to 12 months.

Africa is currently enduring a severe third wave of infections with over 5.1 million coronavirus cases and nearly 60,000 related deaths. However, only 0.79 percent of its population has received two doses of COVID-19 vaccines so far.

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