South African-American businessman Patrick Soon-Shiong opened a new vaccine plant in Cape Town on Wednesday, intended to help his local NantSA company make COVID-19 shots in future and address the continent’s lack of manufacturing capacity, Reuters reports.
The coronavirus pandemic has exposed a global lack of access to life-saving vaccines, particularly in Africa, where just about 10% of the population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 compared to over half the world’s population.
“Africa should no longer be last in line to access vaccines against pandemics. Africa should no longer go cap in hand to the Western world, begging and begging for vaccines,” said South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who attended the opening.
Soon-Shiong, who is also a medical doctor, will transfer technology and materials for RNA, adjuvant vaccine platforms and cell therapy from his California-based NantWorks to scientists in South Africa, where they will also work on vaccines targeting cancer, TB and HIV, Reuters stressed.
But health experts have warned that obstacles, including electricity and water shortages that hamper manufacturing processes, must be tackled before Africa can become self-reliant and wean itself off imported vaccines.