The Cape Town-based company Biovac plans to produce 100 million doses a year, destined for African Union countries, under the agreement.
Pfizer and BioNTech have stated that they have reached an agreement with the South African company Biovac for the production of COVID-19 vaccines for the African Union (AU).
In a statement released Wednesday, the two companies said Cape Town-based Biovac will complete the final step in the manufacturing process, known as “filling and finishing,” of the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine.
“To facilitate Biovac’s participation in the process, technical transfer, on-site development and equipment installation activities will begin immediately,” the statement reads.
The ingredients to produce the jabs will come from plants based in Europe, while manufacturing of finished doses will begin in 2022, he added.
The companies expect that at “full operational capacity” the annual production of Biovac will reach 100 million doses per year – which will be distributed among the AU member states.
The announcement of the partnership came amid growing calls to address an extraordinary gap in the global distribution of vaccines. Only 1.5 percent of people in Africa are fully vaccinated, compared to 43.7 percent in the European Union and nearly 50 percent in the United States, according to Our World Data.
Unequal distribution has been a source of debate for months at the World Trade Organization since developing countries, led by India and South Africa, have made a proposal to temporarily lift intellectual property rights ( IP) on vaccines to strengthen global manufacturing capacity.
Without IP, among other issues, manufacturing companies do not risk being sued for producing jabs without a license from the vaccine manufacturing company.
But the proposal, presented in October and backed by most WTO members, has been opposed by a handful of rich countries who claim that such a waiver impedes technological innovation.
Last month, the World Health Organization said it would set up a hub, or training facility, in South Africa to give companies the expertise and licenses to produce COVID-19 vaccines.
Biovac was one of the initial participants in the center. It has been a partner of Pfizer since 2015 to manufacture and distribute its pneumatic vaccine Prevenar 13.