Germany’s BioNTech, which developed a coronavirus jab with US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, said Tuesday it aims to begin building a vaccine plant in Africa next year.
The project is expected to address the continent’s shortage of COVID-19 vaccines and boost its flagging vaccination drive, with only 5.2 percent of its population fully inoculated, according to the Africa CDC.
BioNTech said it was working with authorities in both Rwanda and Senegal and plans to begin construction “in mid-2022”.
The plant will initially have capacity to produce around 50 million vaccine doses per year, the German company said.
BioNTech had in August announced plans to build “sustainable vaccine production capabilities” in Rwanda and Senegal, producing not only COVID-19 vaccines but also mRNA-based malaria and tuberculosis vaccines.
“Together, we will work on developing a regional manufacturing network to support the access to vaccines manufactured in Africa, for Africa,” Chief Executive of BioNTech Ugur Sahin said.
In July, Pfizer and BioNTech announced that they were partnering with the Biovac Group to bottle their COVID-19 vaccine in Cape Town, South Africa, beginning in 2022.
However, the creation of the messenger RNA—the most delicate and crucial step—will continue to be carried out in Europe.
Currently, just one percent of vaccines used in Africa are manufactured on the continent. The African Union wants to increase this proportion to 60 percent by 2040.
US pharmaceutical giant Moderna earlier this month also announced plans to build a vaccine plant in Africa.
Africa, home to 1.2 billion people, is the least vaccinated continent in the world.
Test tubes are seen in front of a displayed Biontech logo in this illustration taken, May 21, 2021.