Covid-19 manufacturing roundup: BioNTech announces plans to produce mRNA vaccines in Africa; AstraZeneca deliveries from Thailand delayed
BioNTech, Pfizer’s partner on its Covid-19 vaccine, will look to establish mRNA vaccine production facilities in Africa, the Financial Times reported Wednesday.
The move is a part of a larger push to tackle diseases beyond Covid-19, and as the EU looks to up its manufacturing capacity on the continent. Right now, Africa imports over 99% of the vaccines it uses, the FT reports. The plan was outlined in a call between CEO Ugur Sahin and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen before the G7 summit.
Africa has often been neglected by the pharmaceutical industry. Sentiments of that were echoed in a Monday story from Science Magazine that reported that health officials in Africa are prepared for a trial to test the efficacy of mRNA vaccines in pregnant women and patients who have HIV, yet Pfizer and Moderna have yet to provide any vaccines for the trial.
Just 39 million vaccine doses have been administered in Africa so far. The continent accounts for 2% of all vaccinations.
Venezuela to buy another Russian vaccine
Venezuela and Russia have announced another Covid-19 vaccine deal, this time for the Russian EpiVacCorona vaccine, Reuters has reported.
So far, the country has received 3 million doses of Sputnik V and Sinopharm shots from Russia and China. Now, it has announced plans to not only purchase doses of EpiVacCorona, but manufacture them within the country, Vice President Delcy Rodriguez said Friday. Right now, it’s not clear how many doses would be sent, or when manufacturing will begin. The country received a thousand doses of the vaccine earlier this year to be used in trials, Reuters reports.
Venezuela launched a vaccination campaign last week, as the country has lagged behind in administering shots to its population.
AstraZeneca deliveries from Thailand delayed
Nearly 200 million doses of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine are expected to be delayed to Malaysia and Taiwan this week, due to a holdup from a Thai plant.
AstraZeneca’s distribution plans rely on Siam Bioscience, a company owned by Thailand’s king Maha Vajiralongkorn. It is the company’s first time making a vaccine, and questions surrounding the production targets are sensitive, because insulting the Thailand monarchy is a crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison, Reuters reports.
AstraZeneca gave 1.8 million doses to the Thai government last week, but said that deliveries to other countries could take as long as July to be shipped. The first delivery to the Phillippines, which was set to be 17 million doses, was both reduced and postponed, Reuters was told by an advisor to the president. Taiwan’s Health Minister Chen Shih-chung told lawmakers that his country’s order would be delayed by a month. Taiwan has ordered 10 million shots, but only has received 100,000 doses so far.