MSF reiterates call for BioNTech to urgently transfer mRNA vaccine technology to WHO mRNA technology transfer hub in South Africa as well as manufacturers in low- and middle-income countries, as faster option
Yesterday, at the 26th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Rwanda, German pharmaceutical corporation BioNTech announced that by the end of 2022, it will have set up the first two “BioNTainers” – modular mRNA production units – in Rwanda, with mRNA vaccine manufacturing production to begin in the capital, Kigali, in 18 months. Within this timeline, a facility will need to be built to host the “BioNTainers” in order to allow for setup and production launch. In addition, BioNTech announced that it has partnered with local Ghanaian and Senegalese manufacturers and the governments of both countries.
Geneva, 24 June 2022
Kate Stegeman, Advocacy Coordinator, MSF Access Campaign, Africa region:
“MSF welcomes yesterday’s announcement that BioNTech will set up the first “BioNTainers” in Rwanda as an encouraging initial step towards the overdue expansion of vaccine manufacturing in low- and middle-income countries. We also welcome BioNTech’s commitment to developing much-needed vaccines against TB, malaria and HIV, all of which have a high disease burden in Africa and other low- and middle-income countries, using its mRNA platform.
In parallel to this effort, BioNTech should urgently transfer its mRNA vaccine technology know-how and “BioNTainers” to the WHO mRNA technology transfer hub in South Africa, as well as existing manufacturers in low- and middle-income countries with stable and well-functioning regulatory authorities, as this is the fastest way to boost vaccine manufacturing capacity in low- and middle-income countries.
Instead of waiting 18 months for production to begin, which is the timeline that was committed to today in Kigali, BioNTech could immediately put into practice its commitment to boosting vaccine production by transferring its “BioNTainers” to some of the over 100 manufacturers in low- and middle-income countries that could produce mRNA vaccines for COVID, other diseases and future pandemics, once the technology and know-how have been shared.
For a year and a half, the world has witnessed extreme inequity in access to lifesaving COVID vaccines, with African and other low- and middle-income countries being the last served: this must never happen again. It is imperative that pharmaceutical corporations and world leaders do everything in their power to ensure that sustainable, local vaccine production becomes a reality. It is time for BioNTech to prioritise sharing this lifesaving mRNA technology more widely.”