SA determined to ramp up vaccine manufacturing capacity

Covid19 Vaccine Source: Google Images

Deputy President David Mabuza has reiterated government’s stance to ramp up efforts for the country to produce its own lifesaving vaccines, as the world battles COVID-19.

Mabuza conducted an oversight visit at the Biovac Institute in Midrand, Gauteng, on Tuesday.

Biovac is a bio-pharmaceutical company, in partnership with government and the private sector. Established in 2003, with its headquarters in Cape Town, the company was set up to establish local vaccine manufacturing capability for the provision of vaccines for national health management and security.

“We do currently manufacture vaccines. Almost 80% of the vaccines we use are manufactured in Cape Town, and then we distribute. But we want to increase this capacity,” said Mabuza.

The company is the storage centre for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is currently reserved for healthcare workers across the country following a decision by the Inter-Ministerial Committee on COVID-19 Vaccines.

The Deputy President, who chairs the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC), said after his visit to Biovac that government is determined to improve the country’s vaccine manufacturing capabilities.

The second batch of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine landed at OR Tambo International Airport from Belgium on Saturday.

The Deputy Minister believes that the country will not need another storage facility.

“Everything that will come in will be stored here, and will go straight to vaccination sites from here,” he said, speaking from outside the institute’s cold room.

Mabuza said he every confidence in Biovac to safely store the vaccine. He assured that he will get vaccinated when his turn comes.

Corruption

Meanwhile, Mabuza assured the public that measures have been taken to curb corruption in the roll out of vaccines.

“The IMC [on vaccines] is taking care of all the processes to ensure there’s no corruption,” the Deputy President said.

Acting Minister in the Presidency, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, echoed the Deputy Minister’s words, saying government has work streams involving anti-corruption and risk management to deal with any malfeasance that may arise.

“What we’re focusing on is to control and prevent [corruption] rather than being reactive. We’re being proactive this time around and those are the things we’re working on in the IMC,” she said.

With the private sector wanting to procure its own vaccines, Health Deputy Minister Joe Phaahla said they have found that vaccine manufacturers prefer to work with governments.

“The manufacturers themselves are comfortable with that kind of arrangement.”

Ensuring vaccine integrity

Biovac CEO, Dr Morena Makhoana, assured that the integrity of vaccines will be safeguarded, whether the vaccines are in a truck or warehouse.

“That whole value chain has to be maintained and that is what our licence requires, whether there are subcontractors that are used or whether we use our own trucks.

“The whole system has to have integrity and ultimately… Biovac then takes ownership,” he explained.

Meanwhile, the Deputy President will be visiting various sites once government effectively rolls out the inoculation programme in the country.