Africa is set to have its first-ever African-owned COVID-19 vaccine within the next three years, developers announced on Tuesday.
They say the mRNA vaccine will be stored at temperatures used in regular refrigerators, making it easier to store and distribute in rural and remote locations where fewest people are currently vaccinated.
“The Covid-19 vaccine will take up to 36 months because it will have to go through full clinical trials and we will position it as a booster,” said Prof Petro Terblanche of Afrigen – which is collaborating on the vaccine with the Univercells Group.
The development and production of this new vaccine will take place in Cape Town, South Africa.
The announcement comes days after the World Trade Organization (WTO) reached a deal to waive a crucial intellectual property agreement, making it easier for developing countries to manufacture and export patented Covid vaccines without consent from the patent holder for five years.
A lack of super-cold chains and the lack of local cost-effective production are still two major challenges affecting the roll-out of coronavirus vaccines.
There also, however, seems to be an issue with demand.
The South African firm Aspen Pharmacare had signed a deal with Johnson & Johnson to produce its vaccine in South Africa. But its plant may have to close as there are not enough orders.
The continental health body – Africa CDC – says that 18% of the population has been fully vaccinated against Covid.