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Sunday, 20 February 2022

With WHO help, we could produce our own Moderna-like mRNA jab

Egypt to get mRNA vaccine technology from WHO: Egypt has been chosen along with five other African countries to receive the technology to produce mRNA covid-19 vaccines, the World Health Organization said Friday. In an announcement at an EU-Africa summit, the global health body said that Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia will be the first African countries to join the WHO’s mRNA vaccine hub initiative, which aims to “support manufacturers in low- and middle-income countries to produce their own vaccines,” the WHO said.

But don’t expect Egypt-made mRNA jabs to roll off the Vacsera production lines anytime soon: Health officials are still to approve vaccines produced through the initiative, a process that the WHO says could take until at least 2024.

The jab is set to look a lot like Moderna’s: A consortium of Afrigen Biologics, the South African Medical Research Council, and Biovac will use publicly available information on an unnamed existing vaccine to replicate it at the WHO’s mRNA vaccine technology transfer hub in South Africa, before sharing the know-how with the local hubs across Africa. The vaccine to be replicated “was chosen because the originator company has publicly stated that it would not enforce patent rights during the pandemic,” according to the WHO. Moderna said just that back in 2020. BioNTech followed suit last week, telling Reuters TV that it would not enforce its IP rights should African nations seek to copy the covid jab it produces with Pfizer.

But the political sands may be shifting: Moderna has filed for patents in South Africa, Reuters reported last week, and the EU is pushing drugmakers to share their covid vaccine-making tech with African countries, Bloomberg notes. South Africa is pushing hard, meanwhile, for an IP waiver for all covid vaccines that is unpopular with the global industry.

IN THE MEANTIME- Could AstraZeneca hand us its vaccine tech? Acting Health Minister Khaled Abdel Ghaffar held talks with AstraZeneca's Middle East and Africa head to discuss obtaining the company’s (non-mRNA) vaccine technology, according to a ministry statement.

Egypt to receive 60 mn more Sinopharm doses from China: China plans to send Egypt 60 mn doses of its Sinopharm jab “in the coming period,” according to a Health Ministry statement. Acting Health Minister Khaled Abdel Ghaffar and Chinese Ambassador to Egypt Liao Liqiang discussed the jabs in a sit-down yesterday. We inked an agreement for 20 mn doses of Sinopharm last year with China, which has also been providing us with raw materials to help us manufacture its Sinovac jab.

The Health Ministry reported 2,025 new covid-19 infections yesterday, down from 2,053 the day before. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 467,448 confirmed cases of covid-19. The ministry also reported 62 new deaths, bringing the country’s total death toll to 23,694.

The vaccine tally: 29,465,603 people are now fully vaccinated against the virus, while some 9.5 mn people have received only their first shots and 905,854 people have received booster shots.

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