Rwanda inches closer to manufacturing of mRNA vaccines

Rwanda, along with Senegal are being considered by BioNTech, a German biotechnology company, for the manufacturing of mRNA vaccines in Africa.

This was announced on Friday, August 27 in Berlin, Germany, as Rwandan government officials met with BioNTech, which is pioneering novel therapies for cancer and other serious diseases.

The company is most known for having partnered with Pfizer Inc. to develop the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, which is being widely used in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. 

On the same day, President Paul Kagame had a meeting with his counterparts: Macky Sall of Senegal, Ursula von der Leyen of the European Commission, and Uğur Şahin, the CEO and Co-Founder of BioNTech on the sidelines of the G20 Compact with Africa Summit, and confirmed BioNTech’s intention to manufacture mRNA vaccines in Africa (Rwanda and Senegal in particular).

They agreed “to evaluate the establishment of sustainable vaccine manufacturing capabilities in Rwanda and Senegal to support vaccine supply to member states of the African Union.”

The vaccines that are expected to be produced in Rwanda and Senegal are those arising from BioNTech’s mRNA vaccine development programmes for Malaria and Tuberculosis.

“BioNTech has already started the evaluation of manufacturing capabilities, following the company’s announcement of its aim to develop a well-tolerated and highly effective Malaria vaccine and to implement sustainable end-to-end vaccine supply solutions on the African continent,” read a communique from BioNTech.

“The decision to evaluate manufacturing solutions in Rwanda and Senegal follows the guidance of the African Union, the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) and the African Medical Agency under formation,” it went on.

Prof. Dr. Ugur Sahin, CEO and Co-founder of BioNTech said the company’s goal is to develop vaccines in Africa and set-up sustainable vaccine production capabilities to jointly improve medical care.

“We are committed to investing in cutting-edge research and innovation to support vaccine development in addition to the establishment of manufacturing facilities and build-up of manufacturing expertise on the African continent.”

Through his Twitter account, Dr. Daniel Ngamije, the Minister of Health said the production of mRNA vaccines will be soon effective in Rwanda.

“Covid-19 mRNA vaccine production soon effective in Rwanda and Senegal. Thanks to BioNTech committed for tech and knowledge transfer for manufacturing vaccines in Africa,” he wrote.

In June this year, President Kagame called for urgency and excellence in strengthening and building Africa’s capacity to produce high-quality medicine and vaccines,

“There is a long-term vision to build Africa’s capacity to produce high-quality medicines and vaccines right here on our continent. As Africa, we have to do our part with a sense of urgency and excellence. We won’t get out of this crisis with a business as usual mindset,” he said while speaking at the launch of a new partnership between MasterCard Foundation and Africa CDC which will among other things work to ensure equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines across Africa.

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