mRNA vaccine tech hub to improve healthcare in LMICs

L_R)Charles Gore(MPP), Petro Terreblanche of Afrigen, Dr Tedros Ghebreysus, Director-General the WHO, Dr. Joe Paahla, SA Minister of Health, and Anne Tvinnereim, Norwegian Minister of International Development,at the ribbon to formally open Afrigen , in Cape Town, South Africa, on 20 April, 2023. Photo by Rodger Bosch for MPP
Official opening of mRNA vaccine hub in Cape Town. (Photo: Rodger Bosch, MPP)

In a move to address the challenges poor nations face accessing life-saving medication, the World Health Organisation (WHO) launched the mRNA vaccine technology hub in Cape Town on Thursday. Established during the COVID-19 pandemic, this facility seeks to make essential healthcare more accessible to those in need.

The mRNA Technology Transfer Programme aims to contribute to solving this problem by increasing the distribution of sustainable manufacturing capacity across low-middle-income countries (LMICs).

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, and ministers Joe Phaahla and Blade Nzimande attended the launch. Officials from funding countries, such as Belgium, Canada, Germany, Norway, and the European Commission, were also present.. Officials from the funding countries, including Belgium, Canada, Germany, Norway, and the European Commission were also present.

mRNA facility a collective win

Ghebreyesus applauded the achievements made in less than two years. “I am delighted to be here in Cape Town with our partners to support a sustainable model for mRNA technology transfer to give low- and middle-income countries equitable access to vaccines and other lifesaving health products,” he says. “In less than two years we have shown that when we work collaboratively, we succeed collectively.”

Ghebreyesus emphasises the need for sustainable mRNA tech transfer for equitable access to vaccines and health products in LMICs. “The Covid-19 pandemic highlighted that one of the most important strategies for addressing global health emergencies is to increase the capacity to produce medical countermeasures such as vaccines and therapeutics”, he says.

Phaahla echoes the WHO leader’s sentiments.”Our wish is that this will spearhead a situation where the vaccine inequity that marked the early phases of the COVID-19 pandemic will never happen again,” he says.

Increase investment in R&D

Nzimande: AFRIVAC 2121, the first mRNA Covid-19 vaccine on the continent, was a challenging milestone achievement.

“While technology transfer is indeed necessary we all know it is not sufficient.  We need government support and this includes willingness to invest in research and development, building of human capacity, willingness to pay a premium for vaccines and investing and returning our capabilities.”, he says.

The vision for the hub goes beyond Covid-19 vaccines. “It is a vision that has set its eyes on diseases that are prevalent in our environments such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/Aids”, says Minister Nzimande. 

A grant worth over R306-million, signed by the European Commission (EC) and the European Investment Bank (EIB), will help facilitate the expansion of vaccine manufacturing capacity. 

“We have started working together with the European Medicines Agency to support the highly expected African Medicines Agency to be fully operational and look forward to collaboration between the two sister agencies in the coming years”, says Martin Seychell, Deputy Executive Director of the EC. – Health-e News

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