Members of the Interministerial Committee on COVID-19 Vaccines, visited the Biovac, biopharmaceutical company in Pinelands on Thursday.The delegation, led by the Deputy President, David Mabuza, were able to see first-hand the scientific capabilities and biotechnology infrastructure that could enable local vaccine manufacture.
Deputy President was accompanied by Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Blade Nzimande, the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Dr Naledi Pandor, and the Deputy Minister of Health, Dr Joe Phaahla.
The manufacturing facility in Cape Town performs product development, the formulation and filling of vaccines, packaging and labelling, as well as cold chain and distribution processes.
As the country implements its COVID-19 vaccine roll-out strategy, the need for locally manufactured vaccines is critical. South Africa is expected to vaccinate 1 million people by the second week of April. The availability of vaccines remains a challenge, but more vaccines are expected within the next few weeks.
Minister Nzimande said that the facility was moving up the value chain fast in order to manufacture vaccines, starting with a vaccine for COVID-19 and then looking at other diseases.
The Minister announced that Biovac is excepted to sign a partnership agreement with ImmunityBio, a US-based immunotherapy company, owned by South African-born Patrick Soon-Shiong. “The company is currently doing clinical trials in Khayelitsha and the US, and whatever gets produced from that process we will be partners,” he added.