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€15m pledge to increase Biovac vaccine production

The European Investment Bank’s first support for vaccine investment in this country, to be financed by a €15m European Union support grant, is expected to increase annual production capacity at Biovac’s plant in Cape Town to 500m doses, “enable manufacturing of viral and bacterial targeted vaccines, and strengthen resilience to future pandemics in Africa”.

Agreements to prepare detailed feasibility studies, finance preparatory works and commission detailed designs of the expanded vaccine production facility, have already been concluded by the EIB, Biovac and the EU.

This will enable new investment at the facility in the future, expected to exceed €175m and backed by South African and international financing partners.

“Africa remains highly vulnerable to vaccine-preventable diseases and to both the COVID pandemic as well as future ones. Scaling up local vaccine development and manufacturing capacity is crucial to enable a quicker response to future health crises. The EIB and EU support will maximise the impact of large-scale investment at Biovac and enable Africa to host a world-class international vaccine manufacturing facility,” said Dr Morena Makhoana, CEO at Biovac.

No plant in South Africa has produced a vaccine itself in 25 years. Biovac is a public-private partnership that was created in 2003 to revive vaccine production in South Africa after the country stopped producing vaccines locally in the 1990s.

The government buys about 95% of the total 25m doses of vaccine supplied annually by Biovac, covering diseases such as tuberculosis, cervical cancer and influenza. Biovac also started local production of Sanofi’s Hexavalent vaccine in 2020 and Pfizer’s anti-pneumonia Prevnar 13 vaccine last year.

Historically, Biovac, as well as Aspen Pharmacare, in Gqeberha, have focused on procuring and distributing jabs or filling and finishing them — as Aspen does Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine. The duo is the only two firms working in the vaccine field locally.

In March, Aspen announced a further investment of some R500m to its manufacturing site in Gqeberha, to provide further capacity for fill and finish of a range of sterile products, including vaccines.

And while – earlier this year – the company concluded an agreement to manufacture and make available an Aspen-branded COVID-19 vaccine (Aspenovax) throughout Africa, an announcement greeted with enthusiasm and promises of support from the other 54 members states of the African Union, it has yet to receive one order.

Biovac, meanwhile, is delighted with its ongoing support and investment.

"We are excited by the support pledged by the European Investment Bank to Biovac,” said Patricia De Lille, minister of Public Works and Infrastructure.


See more from MedicalBrief archives:


Pfizer invests R255m to strengthen South Africa’s health system through Biovac partnership


Biovac’s Cape Town to pump out millions of Pfizer vaccines for Africa


Biovac to start local production of Sanofi and Pfizer vaccines


AU pleads for support for African vaccine manufacturers



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