Domestic manufacturing of Covid-19 vaccines appears to be one step closer to reality for Africans after a groundbreaking ceremony at NantSA’s manufacturing facility in Cape Town.
Patrick Soon-Shiong, a South African-born American billionaire, and President Cyril Ramaphosa cut the ribbon yesterday at a factory largely funded by Soon-Shiong.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the scale of Africa’s health challenges. The pandemic has exposed the huge disparities that exist within and between countries in access to quality health care, medicines, diagnostics and vaccines,” Ramaphosa said in a speech. “At the same time, the pandemic has revealed the extent of our continent’s scientific knowledge, expertise and capacity. It showed what we are capable of when we work together to mobilize all our resources to face a common challenge.
The launch also marked the start of the Accelerate Africa’s Access to Advanced Healthcare coalition. This aims to manufacture one billion doses of the vaccine by 2025 and establish another manufacturing site in sub-Saharan Africa.
Eventually, the Cape Town site will also manufacture drugs for the treatment of cancer and other pharmaceutical products.
Rampahosa has strongly pushed drugmakers to give up intellectual property rights so that more countries can order vaccines.
Africa has been left behind in many public health efforts, and the Covid-19 pandemic is no different. At the end of July, the first shots of J&J produced in South Africa entered the weapons – but these weapons were not on the continent but in Europe since millions of doses were exported.
Senator calls for lower test prices
Just days after the US government rolled out a plan to provide Americans with up to four free rapid Covid-19 antigen tests through the Postal Service, Sen. Ed Markey, D-MA. calls on test manufacturers and retailers to cut costs and make testing more affordable.
Markey wrote to retailers like Amazon, CVS and Walmart, as well as a dozen manufacturers, including Abbott, asking for pricing information. In the letter, he highlights a malaria test made by Abbott that sells for just 20 cents each, and says the technology is similar enough to suggest a lower manufacturing cost of Covid-19 antigen tests.
“As we face an unprecedented wave of COVID cases, manufacturers and retailers must do more to ensure consumers have reasonable prices for home testing,” Markey wrote. “Emergency rooms, intensive care units and health systems are overwhelmed across the country due to the surge in COVID-19 cases. Expanded access to affordable home testing can help alleviate this pressure on our healthcare system.
The tests can be done for as little as $2 each, according to Mologic, a British test maker.
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