Why South Africa stopped making vaccines - The Mail & Guardian

The high demand for Covid vaccines means there is a limited global supply. Local manufacturing is one solution. So why isn’t South Africa making its own jabs?

2021-05-06 11:20:00 AM

The high demand for Covid vaccines means there is a limited global supply. Local manufacturing is one solution. So why isn’t South Africa making its own jabs?

The high demand for Covid vaccines means there is a limited global supply. Local manufacturing is one solution. So why isn’t South Africa making its own jabs?

, hAd5 T-cell, should its clinical trials now underway in the US and Khayelitsha prove successful.Makhoana says Biovac, at a push, could manufacture 30-million doses of vaccines a year using multi-dose vials (“manufacturing” here refers to any form of vaccine production — “fill and finish”, formulation or producing jabs from scratch). 

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But this number hinges on the type of technology used to produce some vaccines and the willingness of foreign manufacturers to do “technology transfer” as part of licensing their product for local production.“When we talk of technology transfer, we are talking about transferring the know-how from the original manufacturers into this facility,” says Simphiwe Ntombela, Aspen Pharmacare’s production manager for the new Gqeberha sterile facility. 

The plant will “fill and finish”up to 400-million doses of J&J’s Covid jab, of which 31-million doses will be allocated to South Africa and the rest to other countries.But even with Biovac and Aspen ramping up their technology and capacity, South Africa will still not be self-sufficient for all vaccines, including routine childhood immunisations, flu jabs, Covid-19 shots, or the next pandemic’s vaccines.  headtopics.com

One of the reasons for this is the lack of financial incentives for investment in vaccine production, which are undermined by the government’s tender system. The government accounts for 75% of the country’s demand for vaccines and pharmaceuticals, Nicolaou says, but it operates largely

on a two-year tender cyclefor suppliers to manufacture those products. This makes it difficult for businesses to plan and to project revenues that would justify capital investment.“The current procurement mechanism is counterproductive to attracting investors or safeguarding existing investments,” Nicolaou says. A company might invest massively to scale up its production to meet one particular contract, but two years later, “you could lose the entirety of it if the contract changes and you have two years of nothing — then later you might have to upscale again”. 

Nicolaou concludes: “Manufacturing is largely about economies of scale, and if most of [the demand] is sitting in the public sector, the public health and the economic/industrial imperatives need to meet each other.”This article was produced by the Bhekisisa Centre for Health Journalism.

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