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BioNTech plans to ship mobile COVID-19 vaccine labs to Africa

BioNTech plans to ship mobile COVID-19 vaccine labs to Africa

An illustration shows vials of a COVID-19 vaccine and syringes with the logos of US pharmaceutical company Pfizer and German partner BioNTech. Photo: AFP

Germany’s BioNTech, which together with Pfizer developed the first mRNA vaccine against coronavirus, said Wednesday it plans to ship mobile vaccine production units to Africa.

“The question was, can we make the process compact enough to fit in a container,” the chief executive and co-founder of BioNTech, Ugur Sahin, told AFP as the company unveiled the new labs, dubbed “BioNTainers.”

BioNTech said it aims to establish the “first manufacturing facility in the African Union” in “mid-2022” and expects to ship the modular production units to Rwanda and/or Senegal.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame and his Senegalese counterpart Macky Sall attended the Vaccine Equity for Africa meeting at BioNTech’s mRNA production site in Marburg, Germany, along with Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo and World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“The modular system opens up new perspectives for global vaccine equity,” Kagame said.

Tedros said that boosting local production was “essential,” particularly as more than 100 countries worldwide had failed to attain the vaccination rate of 70 percent that the WHO had been targeting for the middle of 2022.

Africa is the least-vaccinated continent in the world – more than two years after the start of the pandemic and more than a year after the rollout of the first coronavirus vaccines, less than 12 percent of Africans have been fully vaccinated.