July 22, 2021: Pfizer and BioNTech will begin to manufacture Covid-19 vaccine in South Africa, they announced jointly on July 21, as reported by CNN.

When fully operational, the companies said annual vaccine production would exceed 100 million doses, to be distributed exclusively within African countries.

In a statement, the companies said they signed a letter of intent with the Biovac Institute in Cape Town to transfer technology, install equipment, and develop manufacturing capability. The raw material for the vaccines will be transported from Europe and the first doses will be produced in 2022.

In its LinkedIn post, Biovac, stated, "We are set to immediately commence technical transfer activities that include on-site development and equipment installation activities of the vaccines. We will obtain drug substance from facilities in Europe, and manufacturing of finished doses will commence in 2022. All doses will exclusively be distributed within the 55 member states that make up the African Union. We expect the facility will be brought into the Pfizer-BioNTech supply chain by the end of 2021."

Vaccination rates across Africa remain extremely low, with just over 20 million full vaccine doses administered to a population of over 1.3 billion, according to data from the World Health Organization (WHO), which says only 1.5% of the population has been fully vaccinated. Several countries including Mali, Niger and Ethiopia have hardly administered any doses per 100 people.

The vaccine rollout on the continent has been plagued by a shortage of doses, much of which are supplied by the global vaccine distribution initiative COVAX. Many of those doses were scheduled to come from the Serum Institute of India, but exports were suspended amid India's second wave of Covid-19 and will not restart until the end of the year.

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