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By Narissa Subramoney

Deputy digital news editor

NantSA: Billionaire Soon-Shiong and Ramaphosa launch billion-dose vaccine plant

It is hoped the NantSA vaccine plant will produce a billion Covid-19 vaccine doses by 2025.

South African scientists and architects are racing against the clock to start producing Covid-19 vaccines at the newly launched NantSA vaccine manufacturing campus.

President Cyril Ramaphosa and multinational conglomerate NantWorks founder Dr Patrick Soon-Shiong officially opened the NantSA vaccine manufacturing campus in Brackenfell, Cape Town, on Wednesday.

Soon-Shiong said NantSA’s objective is to manufacture vaccines from start to finish.

“We going to be generating the self-amplifying RNA all the way from start to full finish and lyophilisation. The idea is to generate a billion doses by 2025.”

“It is within the walls of this facility, through the networks being built, through advanced skills being developed, and through other initiatives across our continent, that our vision for vaccine, diagnostics and drug manufacturing in Africa will steadily take form,” said Ramaphosa.

The state-of-the-art vaccine manufacturing campus is part of a broader initiative to propel Africa into a new era of health science.

“The establishment of Africa’s Access to Advanced Healthcare Coalition is a bold step to unite biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, government agencies, non-profit organisations and academia,” said Ramaphosa.

The state-of-the-art vaccine manufacturing campus, NantSA is part of a far broader initiative to propel Africa into a new era of health science. Picture: Twitter

‘Africa should no longer be last in line to access vaccines against pandemics’

Ramaphosa has in the past condemned first world countries for hoarding vaccines. During the launch, he reiterated that the Covid-19 pandemic revealed the extent of Africa’s health challenges.

“The pandemic has revealed the huge disparities that exist within and between countries in access to quality healthcare, medicines, diagnostics and vaccines,” said Ramaphosa.

Africa had to wage a concerted fight to secure vaccines for its people.

The African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team managed to secure over 500 million vaccine doses for the continent.

But the doses represent only around half of what the continent needs in order to achieve the 70% target set by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

“At the same time, the pandemic has revealed the depth of scientific knowledge, expertise and capacity on our continent,” said Ramaphosa.

The NantSA facility will complement the work already being done in South Africa by companies like Aspen, Biovac and Afrigen and several other companies in other parts of the continent.

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Coronavirus (Covid-19) vaccines