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Launch of South African mRNA Facility at Afrigen Historic Milestone in Global Health Equity

CAPE TOWN, South Africa – Peter Maybarduk, director of the Access to Medicines program at Public Citizen, traveled this week to South Africa to discuss the launch of the historic mRNA technology transfer program and tour the South African facilities at local biotech companies Afrigen and BioVac. The World Health Organization (WHO) and Medicines Patent Pool convened the Technology Transfer Programme for mRNA vaccines in June 2021 to bolster regional and global mRNA manufacturing capacity and promote vaccine research and development in low- and middle-income countries towards reducing global vaccine inequities that became clear during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Funding for the program has been provided by South Africa, the EU and several European countries, Canada and other local and international partners. U.S. agencies including the NIH Vaccine Research Center and BARDA have provided key technical support, though the U.S. has not yet provided direct funding. The mRNA tech transfer program has requested $100 million in financial support from the Biden administration, and health and development groups wrote President Biden in support of this call.

While in South Africa touring the facilities, Maybarduk released the following statement

“It is inspiring and heartening to see the progress unfolding here in South Africa towards vaccine equity. 

“The historic mRNA program facilitates the sharing of technology and know-how among scientists and manufacturers across Africa, Asia and the Americas making life-saving vaccines. The COVID-19 pandemic provided a stark and deadly reminder that the old ways of delivering global health solutions must fall away, and that we must forge something new and tangible in their place. Meeting the real needs of medicine development and production in lower- and middle-income countries requires cooperation, funding, imagination and empowerment.

“U.S. government scientists and federal agencies were essential to the development of mRNA vaccines, and their ongoing scientific collaborations support work at mRNA Technology Transfer Programme facilities today. We hope the Biden administration will take the next step and join leading nations funding the mRNA program today.”

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