In order to bolster the COVID-19 vaccination supply chain in Africa, Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE have signed a deal with The Biovac Institute based in South Africa. As pert the agreement, Biovac will undertake fill and finish manufacturing stage of their mRNA COVID-19 vaccine that has been authorized for emergency use by FDA for individuals 12 years and older.
Biovac is a joint venture between private sector and South Africa government and is among the few set of companies in Africa involved in vaccine manufacturing in Africa. Through this partnership, Biovac will be the first in the region for manufacturing and distributing COVID-19 vaccine by leveraging mRNA technology. Pfizer and BioNTech will be transferring technology, providing equipment and begin their installation at the earliest. Biovac will be receiving drug substance from the European facilities and will take forward manufacturing process to produce finished doses. The estimated production form Biovac is upto 100 million finished doses annually at full operational capacity that will be exclusively distributed in African region. Pfizer and Biovac had earlier partnered in 2015 for establishing sterile formulation, fill and finish processing including the distribution of Prevenar 13 vaccine.
The partnership is in sync with Pfizer and BioNTech aim to expand availability of the vaccine in regions with low vaccination rates, with help of partnerships for manufacturing with domestic players and are working towards establishing partners in Latin America as well. They are currently choosing the contract manufacturers using a selection funnel, including metrics as quality, compliance, technical compatibility, capacity availability and human resources.
Expanding the commercial reach of COVID-19 vaccine in Africa has been taken on by another pharma giant, Johnson & Johnson. Aspen Pharmacare had entered an agreement with Janssen Pharmaceuticals for technical transfer and commercial manufacturing post regulatory approval, in November 2020 post which recently, the organisations had hit a road block due to good manufacturing practice risk concerning the isolated materials in drug substance supplied by Emergent, Johnson & Johnson’s contract manufacturing partner in US. Even though, it will take more than a year for the product to reach market and people, it is optimistic to see big pharma companies taking interest in partnering with domestic players, ensuring better reach along with maintained quality of vaccine shots.