Covid-19 revealed the need to increase local vaccine production globally, especially in low- and middle-income countries, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said today.

“The international mRNA centre is an important step in that direction, sharing technology and building on the scientific capacity and expertise that already exists in South Africa,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom.

On a visit to the facility under construction, along with a number of public and private sector partners, he said it will complement this activity, while assisting the rest of Africa’s low- and middle-income nations.

The global centres will act as training facilities where industrial-scale technology will be established and clinical development will take place, the WHO said in a statement here.

They provide an unprecedented opportunity for capacity building, while putting the continent on the path to self-sufficiency, WHO regional director Matshidiso Moeti said on the tour.

The facility will enable better protection against outbreaks, control the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus and develop new immunisers by accelerating the elimination of deadly diseases such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), malaria and tuberculosis, she added.

“We are opening the door to better health and well-being for our people,” remarked the Botswana-born doctor, a graduate of the University of London, UK.

In the future, we need more sharing of licences, technology transfer and knowledge so that, in this pandemic or in pandemics to come, we can deploy biologics quickly and equitably for the entire population, reflected Belgium’s Minister for Cooperation, Meryame Kitir.

For most of 2021, limited global drug supplies caused huge disparities in access to the Covid-19 vaccine, leaving billions of people unprotected against serious illness and death from the pandemic.

Low levels of immuniser coverage also provided ideal conditions for the development of new variants.

While – in the view of experts – supply has now increased, access to new formulations of anti-coronavirus drugs, tailored specifically to new variants, is also likely to be uneven because manufacturing capacity remains concentrated by only a small handful of companies and nations.

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