Members of the Interministerial Committee on COVID-19 Vaccines, visited the Biovac, biopharmaceutical company in Pinelands yesterday. 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.   

Accompanying the Deputy President, was the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande, the Minister of International Relations, 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.

"Part of implementing a successful COVID-19 vaccine rollout plan means we have to explore our capability of locally manufacturing vaccines in line with the industrial policy of the country," said the Deputy President after touring Biovac's vaccine filling facility, where the Hexaxim production line was running.

Last November Biovac commenced the local manufacture of Hexaxim in partnership with Sanofi. The vaccine is the world's first fully liquid hexavalent (6-in-1) vaccine, which protects against six childhood diseases, namely, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B, Haemophilus influenza Type B and poliomyelitis.

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.

Elaborating further, Biovac said in a statement that the facility had entered into a strategic collaboration with ImmunityBio to develop the full value-chain capability for manufacturing biologicals in South Africa, including the COVID-19 vaccine.

ImmunityBio has developed a COVID-19 vaccine intended to be more broadly protective than the current first-generation vaccines.

The collaboration with Biovac will be through technology transfer aimed at building capability for active pharmaceutical ingredient (also referred to as "drug substance") manufacture and capability in South Africa, for South Africa and for export markets.

This capability, would initially be targeted at a COVID-19 vaccine, which would form the basis for Biovac and South Africa to be able to respond to future pandemics


Issued by:

Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation

DST Building (53), CSIR Campus

Meiring Naude Road



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