Senegal to build Covid-19 vaccine plant in bid to expand African access

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Construction of a new plant in Senegal to manufacture Covid-19 vaccines is expected to begin later this year, and the facility should produce 25 million doses per month by the end of 2022, the financers of the project said on Friday.

The Institut Pasteur in Senegal's capital Dakar, which will run the plant, and various European development partners said the facility would help Africa reduce its dependence on vaccine imports, which currently account for 99% of its needs.

That reliance on outside manufacturing has proved costly during the pandemic. Only a little more than 1% of the continent's population has been fully vaccinated, and many African countries are now seeing fresh spikes in cases.

READ HERE | Worst of Covid-19 is yet to come for Africa: WHO

European countries and institutions, including the European Commission, European Investment Bank, France and Germany, committed 6.75 million euros ($8.01 million) in grants to support construction of the plant during a ceremony in Dakar.

The investment comes on top of previous commitments by Germany and France and is part of a 1 billion euro ($1.19 billion) initiative announced by the European Commission in May to bolster access to vaccines and other medicines in Africa.

"With today’s agreement, Team Europe is helping Senegal move one important step closer to producing its own vaccines and protecting Africans from Covid-19 and other diseases," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in the statement.

The statement did not say which vaccines would be produced in Senegal.

There are currently fewer than 10 African manufacturers that produce vaccines in Egypt, Morocco, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia. South Africa's Aspen Pharmacare produces the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine.

Senegal's Institut Pasteur is the only facility in Africa currently producing a vaccine - a yellow fever shot - that is pre-qualified by the World Health Organisation, which requires manufacturers to meet strict international standards.

($1 = 0.8427 euros)

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