South Africa Partners with WHO for first mRNA COVID Vaccine Technology Transfer Hubs
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On April 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a call for Expression of Interest (EOI) as a response to vaccine shortages and scarcity faced by low and middle income countries.

Through this EOI, WHO would be able to empower poor countries with the capacity to produce mRNA vaccines by “facilitating the expansion of technology transfer hubs to transfer a comprehensive technology transfer package and provide appropriate training to interesting manufacturers from these Low and Middle income countries”.

South Africa is the first country to establish this Covid-19 mRNA vaccine technology transfer hub marking a progress and step towards vaccine production for the African continent.

To start this transfer hub, a consortium made up of Biovac, Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines, a network of universities and the African Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has formed a partnership with WHO and COVAX.

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With this partnership, manufacturers from developing countries including South Africa will be able to receive the necessary training and licenses to gain access to the technology required for vaccine production.

Covid-19 Vaccine Bottle Mockup (does not show actual vaccine)

Intellectual property (IP) rights have been a major challenge in the production of vaccines as these vaccines are patented by pharmaceutical companies that produce them signalling those other manufacturers cannot produce the vaccines, or pharmaceutical companies can charge countries exorbitant prices.

The Medicine Patent Protocol (MPP) which is a partner of WHO for this technology transfer will bridge the challenge of an IP rights as it “will assist WHO in negotiating with technical partners and devising legal frameworks for governance agreements that prioritise public health”.


Vaccine shortages have been at the forefront of the global pandemic with some countries including countries on the African continent being unable to either access them or produce them.

Through the waiving of intellectual property rights and patent production, many more lives could be saved as countries in Africa will not have to fold their arms and hope that vaccines can get to them before lives are lost.

As vaccine production hubs such as the one being set up in South Africa is made possible, global vaccine supply is scaled up and this is important because the world cannot be truly safe from this pandemic unless every single person is safe.

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