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The National: Africa needs to be self-reliant in vaccine production

April 11, 2021

Andrey Zarur, CEO of GreenLight Biosciences, writes an opinion piece for The National about how vaccine production needs to progress for the world to recover from the pandemic.

Andrey Zarur, CEO of GreenLight Biosciences, writes an opinion piece for The National about how vaccine production needs to progress, particularly in Africa, for the world to recover from the pandemic. Some extracts from the piece are below.

The pandemic will not end until everyone is vaccinated – and quickly. At the current pace, full vaccination will not occur until the end of 2022, but we must find a way to make enough vaccines, about 15 billion doses, before serious vaccine-resistant variants overtake us. That’s daunting, but it is possible to meet the challenge.

Some countries may share their vaccines with others, but to produce vaccines continually and efficiently, we need production sites distributed around the world. GreenLight’s novel RNA manufacturing process – quick to start, built for scale, and using small bioreactors – may be part of the solution. We are partnering with governments, multilateral institutions and companies on all continents to accelerate pandemic response.

Vaccines for Covid-19 cannot yet be manufactured in Africa. Local manufacturing – that is to say, a factory on the continent itself – would help meet the demand and increase the pace of vaccinations. The Covax initiative plans to send 600 million doses to Africa, enough for only about 20 per cent of its population; so far only 20 million have been delivered. Africa is, essentially, at the back of the line.

The last year has been a showcase for the power of science and of human ingenuity. To go from identifying a pandemic virus to getting a vaccine for that virus into millions of arms within a year is extraordinary, when the normal process takes a decade or more. But to fight this deadly virus and all its variants requires the agility and ingenuity to equip every country with the tools it needs to stay victorious.


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