South African President Cyril Ramaphosa (left) and Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong open the Nant SA manufacturing facility in Cape Town, South Africa, January 19. The plant is expected to begin producing COVID-19 vaccines this year. (© Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty Images)

By Leigh Hartman
Feb 8, 2022

A U.S. doctor turned businessman is opening a new vaccine plant in South Africa that will produce the first COVID-19 vaccines manufactured entirely in Africa.

Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, who immigrated to the United States from South Africa, held an opening ceremony for the Nant SA facility in Cape Town, South Africa, January 19. The plant will produce 1 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses annually by 2025. It will also make medicines to treat diseases including tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, according to Reuters.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa called the facility “a milestone in Africa’s onward march towards health, progress and prosperity.” Along with other efforts, the facility will help “propel Africa into a new era of health science,” he said.

According to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, only 10% of Africans are fully vaccinated. In some African countries, like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, less than 1% are fully vaccinated.

The U.S. government and international partners have provided COVID-19 vaccine doses to more than 110 countries, free of charge and with no political strings attached.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced January 26 that the United States has shared 400 million COVID-19 vaccine doses with the world. The number includes more than 110 million doses delivered to sub-Saharan Africa.

The shipments are among the 1.2 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses that President Biden pledged to donate to low- and middle-income nations.

Other steps taken by the U.S. government or private sector to increase COVID-19 vaccination production in Africa include:

U.S. pharmaceutical firm Moderna’s plan to build a factory in Africa to produce up to 500 million messenger RNA (mRNA) COVID-19 vaccine doses annually.The U.S. government’s $669 million joint investment with France and Germany to enable South African firm Aspen Pharmacare Holdings Limited to manufacture U.S. producer Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine.The U.S. government and African and European development partners work with the Institut Pasteur de Dakar to increase vaccine production in Senegal.U.S. pharmaceutical company Pfizer signed a deal with South Africa’s Biovac for production of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines in early 2022.

The U.S. supports Aspen Pharmacare’s production of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines, seen here at a facility in South Africa in March 2021. (© Lulama Zenzile/Die Burger/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Soon-Shiong, a transplant surgeon who invented a cancer treatment drug, said the Nant SA plant will begin producing vaccines later this year. He also pledged to provide $6.5 million in scholarships to ensure a skilled workforce at the facility that will be the first in Africa to produce COVID-19 vaccines from start to finish.

“We have now the capability to use the human capital of South Africans to build 21st century medicine,” Soon-Shiong said.

The Diplomatic Informer
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