The World Health Organization (WHO) is in discussions with a consortium of companies that will set up a technology transfer hub in South Africa to train manufacturers from low-income countries on how to produce COVID-19 vaccines.
“This is great news, particularly for Africa, which has the least access to vaccines,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Monday at a media briefing in Geneva.
Ghebreyesus said “COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of local production to address health emergencies, strengthen regional health security and expand sustainable access to health products.”
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said the technology transfer hub for coronavirus vaccines was a milestone -- not only for the world, but also for the continent.
“This landmark initiative is a major advance in the international effort to build vaccine development and manufacturing capacity that will put Africa on a path to self-determination,’’ Ramaphosa said.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the full extent of the vaccine gap between developed and developing economies and how that gap can severely undermine global health security,” he added.
The South African leader said his country welcomes the opportunity to host a vaccine technology transfer hub and to build on the capacity and expertise that already exists on the continent to contribute to this effort.
The announcement follows the recent visit to South Africa by French President Emmanuel Macron, who said his country was committed to supporting efforts in Africa to scale up local manufacturing capacity of COVID-19 vaccines and other medical solutions.
Technology transfer hubs are training facilities where the technology is established at industrial scale and clinical development performed.
Interested manufacturers from low- and middle-income countries in Africa and Asia can receive training and any necessary licenses to the technology.
The WHO and its partners will bring in the production know-how, quality control and necessary licenses to a single entity to facilitate a broad and rapid technology transfer to multiple recipients.
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Benefits of the technology transfer include the Medicines Patent Pool’s vast experience of intellectual property (IP) management and issuing of IP licenses.