Manufacturing plant for mRNA vaccines in Rwanda Inaugurated

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BioNTech, a leading biotechnology company, on Monday inaugurated its first manufacturing plant for mRNA vaccines in Africa in Rwanda’s capital of Kigali.

The inauguration comes after the German company signed deals in 2021 with Rwanda and the Institut Pasteur de Dakar in Senegal to set up manufacturing sites on the continent. The facility construction was launched last year.

BioNTech indicated in a statement that it is on course to develop prophylactic mRNA vaccines targeting infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria, and HIV, and is also focusing on diseases with epidemic and pandemic potential, including Mpox.

Located in Rwanda’s Economic Zone in Kigali, the facility could initially manufacture up to 50 million doses annually of a product that has an RNA process similar to that of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, according to the company.

The facility will be based on digitally enabled modular manufacturing units called the BioNTainer.

The containers for the first BioNTainer, which were set up in the manufacturing hall, arrived in Kigali in March this year.

Moussa Faki Mahamat, the chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission, said the facility’s inauguration was a concrete result of strong political will and efficient partnership. “The continent is committed to increasing the accessibility of vaccines and other medicines to be available to all Africans. We believe this facility will contribute to our collective vision of self-reliant Africa. Vaccine independence is key to our future capacity to prepare, respond and better recover from pandemics,” he said.

Africa imports 70 percent of its medicines and produces only 1 percent of its vaccines, according to data from the African Development Bank.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame described the inauguration as a major milestone for the continent in terms of achieving vaccine equity.

Presidents Macky Sall of Senegal, Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana, Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley of Barbados as well as Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, attended the inauguration.

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