Wednesday, 19 January 2022

Cape Town: President Cyril Ramaphosa says the newly launched vaccine manufacturing facility campus at Brackengate in Cape Town will usher in a new era in healthcare, medicines and vaccines for the African continent.

The President was speaking at the new facility – dubbed NantSA – which was launched in collaboration with world renowned technology healthcare scientist, Dr Patrick Soon-Shiong and his company NantWorks LLC.

The facility is aimed mainly at building vaccine manufacturing and pharmaceutical capacity for the African continent – including developing a new COVID-19 vaccine.

“[We] are gathered to witness a milestone in Africa’s onward march towards health, progress and prosperity.

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

The President said the vaccine manufacturing facility will allow Africa to no longer rely heavily on other countries and organisations to supply its people with vaccines and other much needed medication.

“Africa should no longer be the last in line to access vaccines against pandemics. Africa should no longer go cap in hand to the Western world begging for vaccines. We will stand on our own. This we are determined to do and this facility is proof of that,” he said.

During a presentation at the launch, Dr Soon-Shiong also announced that at least R100 million in scholarships will be made available to students in order to build capacity in scientific fields.

Africa standing together

At the launch, President Ramaphosa announced the formation of the Coalition to Accelerate Africa’s Access to Advanced Healthcare (AAAH Coalition) which aims to accelerate local production of pharmaceuticals, biologics and vaccines for Africa

“The establishment of [the AAAH Coalition] is a bold step to unite biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, government agencies, non-profit organisations and academia.

“The Coalition gives effect to our firm belief that Africa needs to harness its skills and resources and identify opportunities for collaboration across several countries. The Coalition recognises that Africa has both a great need and vast capabilities,” he said.

In light of this, the President reflected on the COVID-19 pandemic and its revelation of Africa’s healthcare challenges and the “huge disparities” that exist in access to medical care.

The President said that concerted collaborative efforts between countries – through the African Union – has given rise to a compelling fight against the pandemic on the continent.

“[The pandemic] has shown what we are capable of when we work together to mobilise all our resources to confront a common challenge.

“Through the African Union and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, in collaboration with numerous institutions across the continent, and with the support of many international partners, we have mounted a formidable response to COVID-19 in Africa,” he said.

President Ramaphosa warned that although the continental body has done much in the supply of medical equipment and the acquisition of at least 500 million COVID-19 vaccine doses for the continent, more work needs to be done.

“We need more vaccine doses, we need better therapeutics, and we need to protect the people of our continent against future variants and future pandemics. We have seen that if we want to safeguard the health of our people, we need to have the means, the technology and the resources to produce vaccines and treatments for all the diseases that afflict the people of our continent.

“This NantSA facility will make a vital contribution to this mission, complementing the work already being done by companies like Aspen, Biovac and Afrigen here in South Africa and several other companies in other parts of the continent.” he said.