Pfizer and BioNTech have reached an agreement with a South African company to produce their COVID-19 vaccine for distribution in Africa, the biotechnology companies said Wednesday.
The Biovac Institute in Cape Town will manufacture 100 million doses of the vaccine annually starting in 2022. The company will mix vaccine ingredients it receives from Europe, place them in vials and package them for distribution to the 54 countries in Africa.
The agreement may eventually help alleviate vaccine shortages on a continent where the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says less than 2% of its population of 1.3 billion has received at least one dose.
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said the company’s goal is to provide people throughout Africa with the vaccine, a departure from previous bilateral agreements that saw most doses being sold to wealthy countries.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is already being manufactured in South Africa in a similar “fill and finish” process that has the capacity to produce more than 200 million doses annually. The vaccines are also being distributed across the African continent.