BioNTech, the maker of the COVID-19 vaccine, announced that construction of an mRNA vaccine factory to help African nations jump-start their own manufacturing networks would begin on June 23 in Rwanda.
Rwanda‘s President Paul Kagame, other African heads of state, as well as representatives from the European Union and the World Health Organisation, will attend the groundbreaking ceremony in Kigali, the biotech firm said in a statement on Thursday.
The modular factory elements, which will be assembled in Africa into so-called BioNTainers, will be delivered to the Kigali construction site by the end of 2022, according to the German company.
The company, which developed the most widely used COVID-19 shot in the Western world with US partner Pfizer (PFE.N), earlier this year mapped out a plan to allow African countries to produce its Comirnaty-branded shot under BioNTech’s supervision.
The company stated that the initial vaccine factory, built from an assembly kit and housed in shipping containers, would become part of a larger supply network spanning several African nations, including Senegal and South Africa, over the next few years.
The project is being pushed forward as Western-made coronavirus vaccine doses finally arrive on the continent after a much-criticised delay.
However, uptake in Africa has fallen short of expectations, owing to misinformation, logistical issues, and a lack of urgency among the population, among other factors.
According to BioNTech, depending on product development progress and future public-health priorities, the BioNTainers could produce other mRNA vaccines against malaria or tuberculosis.
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