Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE on Wednesday said they had struck a deal to start producing their COVID-19 vaccine in South Africa from 2022.
The deal will see South Africa’s Biovac Institute process and distribute over 100 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines in Africa.
In a joint statement on Wednesday, the firms said technical transfer, on-site development and equipment installation activities will begin immediately.
Their statement said the companies signed an agreement to transfer technology, install equipment, and develop manufacturing capability with the Biovac Institute in Cape Town, South Africa. Raw materials for the vaccines will be shipped from Europe, and the first doses will be manufactured and packaged in 2022.
Pfizer announced the partnership ahead of a speech by Chief Executive Albert Bourla at the World Trade Organization (WTO) Summit.
The WTO has been discussing waiving drug firms’ intellectual property rights (IP) for COVID-19 vaccines for months. While most developing countries favour the waiver, some wealthy nations are opposed, arguing that it will hinder the research that allowed for the production of COVID-19 vaccines so rapidly.
In his prepared remarks, Bourla advocated that the current IP rules be maintained.
“Weakening IP rules will only discourage the type of unprecedented innovation which brought vaccines forward in record time and make it harder for companies to collaborate going forward,” Bourla said.
The World Health Organization had last month announced that it was opening a training centre in South Africa to provide companies there with the know-how for manufacturing the COVID-19 vaccine. Biovac was one of the first participants in the hub.
Biovac, a public-private partnership focused on vaccine production, has partnered with Pfizer since 2015 to manufacture and distribute its Prevenar 13 pneumonia vaccine.