Global pharmaceutical company, Pfizer, has recently partnered with South Africa’s vaccine manufacturing company, Biovac Institute to produce a potentially life-saving pneumonia vaccine for infants in Cape Town, South Africa.
Naledi Pandor, Minister of Science and Technology, said the five-year partnership will see technology transfer and skills upgraded for the production of ‘Prevenar 13’ vaccine on a sustainable basis. The technology transfer will entail the packaging of labelled syringes first before manufacturing is expected to start in 2020, Pfizer.
“There is more that we can do to cut the costs of the vaccine, and that is to manufacture the vaccine here in Cape Town”. He noted that vaccine prices have sky-rocketed over the last decade, adding that the pneumonia vaccine alone has used up 40 percent of South Africa’s budget for vaccines.
The Minister also pointed that “There won’t be an immediate saving because we will still continue to import … but in the final analysis, when we get to 2020 we shouldn’t be purchasing the vaccine in dollars but as manufactured in South Africa”.
South Africa’s government holds a 47.5 percent stake in Biovac, which currently supplies over 25 million doses of vaccines a year to fight a range of diseases, including tuberculosis and polio. By 2020, it is expected that Biovac, which also supplies vaccines across Africa, would provide 1 million South African babies with 3 million doses of the pneumonia vaccine.
According to the World Health Organisation, pneumonia is the leading infectious cause of death among children worldwide, accounting for 15 percent of all deaths for children under the age of 5 years.