Rwanda and Senegal will start building a manufacturing facility for the BioNtech’s mRNA-based vaccines on their soil in mid-2022, the Rwandan ambassador to the Netherlands, Olivier Nduhungirehe, told Sputnik.
The three-way deal was signed last week on the sidelines of the African Union-European Union meeting of foreign ministers in the Rwandan capital of Kigali, Nduhungirehe said. BioNtech is the German developer of a COVID-19 mRNA vaccine produced together with US pharma giant Pfizer.
“An MRNA based vaccine manufacturing facility in Rwanda [will] ensure that Rwanda is able to produce vaccines, because we have seen for the Covid vaccines that there is a problem in fairness between countries,” he explained.
The diplomat attributed Africa’s low COVID-19 vaccination level to vaccine nationalism by production countries, mostly in Europe and North America, which he said were keeping most supplies for themselves, although many of them supplied doses to developing countries and contributed to the COVAX program of the World Health Organization. Having vaccines produced in Africa will ensure equitable access to vaccines and speed up national rollout campaigns.
“We should produce vaccines in Africa and ensure manufacturing capacity in developing countries. This is why this first step of setting up vaccine manufacturing facilities in Rwanda and Senegal is critical to ensure easy access of vaccines on our continent and health solidarity and equity worldwide, especially in the face of a pandemic. The vaccine plants will not be specifically about the production of COVID vaccines but will be about all or most known vaccines,” he said.
Africa’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that only 5.5% out of the 1.2 billion people on the continent have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Rwanda is among the top 10 vaccinated African countries. As of November 1st, almost 3.9 million of people, which is some 30% of the small eastern African nation’s population, had received at least one dose, according to Nduhungirehe, while more than 2 million (15%) have been fully immunized. Almost all adults in Kigali, the epicenter of the national outbreak, have been fully vaccinated.