WHO / COVID-19 UPDATE

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21-Jun-2021 00:05:17
The World Health Organization (WHO) and its COVAX partners are working with a South African consortium comprising Biovac, Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines, a network of universities and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to establish its first COVID mRNA vaccine technology transfer hub. WHO

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STORY: WHO / COVID-19 UPDATE
TRT: 5:13
SOURCE: WHO
RESTRICTIONS: NONE
LANGUAGE: ENGLISH / FRENCH / NATS

DATELINE: 21 JUNE 2021, GENEVA, SWITZERLAND

SHOTLIST:

21 JUNE 2021, GENEVA, SWIZERLAND

1.Wide shot, press briefing room
2. SOUNDBITE (English) Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General:
"The rate of decline in most regions has slowed, and every region has countries that are seeing a rapid increase in cases and deaths. In Africa, the number of cases and deaths increased by almost 40 per cent in the past week, and in some countries the number of deaths tripled or quadrupled."
3. Wide shot, press briefing room
4. SOUNDBITE (English) Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General:
"In April, WHO issued a call for Expressions of Interest to establish technology transfer hubs for COVID-19 mRNA vaccines. Tech-transfer hubs are training facilities where manufacturers from low- and lower-middle income countries can receive training in how to produce certain vaccines, and the relevant licenses to do so. mRNA technology has been in development for decades, and is the basis for at least two safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines."
5. Wide shot, press briefing room
6. SOUNDBITE (English) Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General:
"Today, I am delighted to announce that WHO is in discussions with a consortium of companies and institutions to establish a technology transfer hub in South Africa. The consortium involves a company called Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines, which will act as the hub both by manufacturing mRNA vaccines itself and by providing training to a second manufacturer called Biovac. In time, Afrigen could provide training to other manufacturers in Africa and beyond.The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention will provide guidance through the Partnership for African Vaccines Manufacturing. WHO is facilitating this effort by establishing the criteria for the technology transfer, assessing the applications, developing standards and providing ongoing support and training. We are now in negotiations with several companies that have indicated interest in providing their mRNA technology to the hub."
7. Wide shot, press briefing room
8. SOUNDBITE (English) H.E. Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa:
"Because today marks an important milestone towards the achievement of one of the critical objectives of the African Union’s Agenda 2063: the Africa we want. The ability to manufacture vaccines, medicines and other health-related commodities will help to put Africa on a path to self-determination. Through this initiative and others, we will change the narrative of an Africa that is a centre of disease and poor development."
9. Wide shot, press briefing room
10. SOUNDBITE (English) H.E. Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa:
"And we from Africa have been calling for the capability, the capacity that needs to be transferred to Africa so that we can also make our own vaccines. It's been shown now that we just cannot continue to rely on vaccines that are made outside of Africa because they never come, they never arrive on time and people continue to die. And we've therefore called on a waiver, as I spoke about, but also technology transfer. So, this is a phenomenal step, but it is a step that needs to be taken as we move to the realization of what we've proposed, which is the waiver of the TRIPS IP."
11. Wide shot, press briefing room
12. SOUNDBITE (French) H.E. Emmanuel Macron, President of France:
"This initiative is the first of many. We will continue to support these, with our European partners, with all the good will, united by the conviction that action for global public goods is the fight that this century must carry and the fight that cannot wait."
13. Wide shot, press briefing room
14. SOUNDBITE (English) Dr Soumya Swaminathan, WHO Chief Scientist:
"So the timelines of when vaccines can be produced in the country will depend on whether there's a tried and tested technology that can be much more easily transferred to the facility in South Africa, which, by the way, already exists. There's already a pilot plant there so all we would need is to put in some equipment and then train the workforce there locally on the new process. Of course, sourcing all the raw materials and things that are going to be needed for this. In that situation, we could even expect to see within nine to 12 months vaccines being produced in Africa, in South Africa."
15. Wide shot, press briefing room

STORYLINE:

The World Health Organization (WHO) and its COVAX partners are working with a South African consortium comprising Biovac, Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines, a network of universities and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to establish its first COVID mRNA vaccine technology transfer hub.

The move follows WHO’s global call for Expression of Interest (EOI) on 16 April 2021 to establish COVID mRNA vaccine technology transfer hubs to scale up production and access to COVID vaccines. Over the coming weeks, the partners will negotiate details with the Government of South Africa and public and private partners inside the country and from around the world.

Speaking to reporters today (21 Jun) in Geneva, WHO’s chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, "In April, WHO issued a call for Expressions of Interest to establish technology transfer hubs for COVID-19 mRNA vaccines. Tech-transfer hubs are training facilities where manufacturers from low- and lower-middle income countries can receive training in how to produce certain vaccines, and the relevant licenses to do so. mRNA technology has been in development for decades, and is the basis for at least two safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines.

He also said, “The consortium involves a company called Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines, which will act as the hub both by manufacturing mRNA vaccines itself and by providing training to a second manufacturer called Biovac. In time, Afrigen could provide training to other manufacturers in Africa and beyond.The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention will provide guidance through the Partnership for African Vaccines Manufacturing. WHO is facilitating this effort by establishing the criteria for the technology transfer, assessing the applications, developing standards and providing ongoing support and training. We are now in negotiations with several companies that have indicated interest in providing their mRNA technology to the hub."

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said, "Because today marks an important milestone towards the achievement of one of the critical objectives of the African Union’s Agenda 2063: the Africa we want. The ability to manufacture vaccines, medicines and other health-related commodities will help to put Africa on a path to self-determination. Through this initiative and others, we will change the narrative of an Africa that is a centre of disease and poor development."

The South African President also said, "And we from Africa have been calling for the capability, the capacity that needs to be transferred to Africa so that we can also make our own vaccines. It's been shown now that we just cannot continue to rely on vaccines that are made outside of Africa because they never come, they never arrive on time and people continue to die. And we've therefore called on a waiver, as I spoke about, but also technology transfer. So, this is a phenomenal step, but it is a step that needs to be taken as we move to the realization of what we've proposed, which is the waiver of the TRIPS IP."

French President Emmanuel Macron said, "This initiative is the first of many. We will continue to support these, with our European partners, with all the good will, united by the conviction that action for global public goods is the fight that this century must carry and the fight that cannot wait."

WHO Chief Scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan said, "So the timelines of when vaccines can be produced in the country will depend on whether there's a tried and tested technology that can be much more easily transferred to the facility in South Africa, which, by the way, already exists. There's already a pilot plant there so all we would need is to put in some equipment and then train the workforce there locally on the new process. Of course, sourcing all the raw materials and things that are going to be needed for this. In that situation, we could even expect to see within nine to 12 months vaccines being produced in Africa, in South Africa."

The announcement follows the recent visit to South Africa by the President of France, Mr Emmanuel Macron, who said his country was committed to supporting efforts in Africa to scale up local manufacturing capacity of COVID-19 vaccines and other medical solutions.

Technology transfer hubs are training facilities where the technology is established at industrial scale and clinical development performed. Interested manufacturers from low- and middle-income countries can receive training and any necessary licenses to the technology. WHO and partners will bring in the production know-how, quality control and necessary licenses to a single entity to facilitate a broad and rapid technology transfer to multiple recipients.

The technology transfer hub will benefit from the Medicines Patent Pool’s (MPP’s) vast experience of intellectual property (IP) management and issuing of IP licenses. MPP is also assisting WHO to negotiate with technical partners and supporting in the governance of the hubs.

Biovac is a bio-pharmaceutical company that is the result of a partnership formed with the South African government in 2003 to establish local vaccine manufacturing capability for the provision of vaccines for national health management and security.

Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines is a biotechnology company focuses on product development, bulk adjuvant manufacturing and supply and distribution of key biologicals to address unmet healthcare needs.

The organizations complement one another, and can each take on different roles within the proposed collaboration: Biovac will act as developer, Afrigen as manufacturer and a consortium of universities as academic supporters providing mRNA know-how, and Africa CDC for technical and regional support.

The South African consortium benefits from having existing operating facilities that have spare capacity and because it has experience in technology transfers. It is also a global hub that can start training technology recipients immediately.

Other hubs in the pipeline

WHO’s April call for expressions of interest has so far generated 28 offers to either provide technology for mRNA vaccines or to host a technology hub or both. There have been 25 expressions of interest from low- and middle-income country respondents who could receive the technology to produce mRNA vaccines.

Over the coming weeks, WHO will continue the rolling evaluation of other proposals and identify additional hubs, as needed, to contribute to health security and equity in all regions.

Through the COVAX partnership, WHO will continue its assessment of potential mRNA technology donors and will launch subsequent calls for other technologies, such as viral vectors and proteins, in coming months.

WHO is also hosting the Local production forum this week, to identify strategies to expand pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity in low- and middle-income countries for COVID-19 and other priority diseases.
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