COVID 19Health

Sinovac’s partner says talks are under way to set up SA vaccine production facility

PRETORIA (The Southern African Times) – China’s Sinovac Biotech is in talks about setting up a vaccine production facility in SA to supply the African continent with shots against a range of diseases, the CEO of its local partner says.

Numolux Group CEO Hilton Klein made the comments  at the launch of the SA leg of a global phase 3 trial of Sinovac’s Covid-19 vaccine in children and adolescents.

“This clinical trial is a precursor to the establishment of a SA vaccine manufacturing facility partnered by Sinovac and Numolux Group that will cover the entire spectrum of vaccinations beyond just the Covid-19 response,” Klein told a news conference on Friday.

“We are in talks with Sinovac to set up a vaccine manufacturing facility. A phase one where we will do bottling and labelling so that we can get vaccines out to the people of Africa as soon as possible,” he added. “Vaccines in Africa for Africa.”

Sinovac did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Sinovac and Numolux are enrolling 2,000 participants in the SA leg of their study evaluating the efficacy, immunogenicity and safety of the CoronaVac vaccine against Covid-19 on children and adolescents aged 6 months to 17 years.

The global trial will enrol 14,000 participants, also in Chile, the Philippines, Malaysia and Kenya.

Prof Glenda Gray, president of the SA Medical Research Council, said vaccinating children against Covid-19 was critical, especially in low- and middle-income countries such as SA where they can account for up to 30% of the population.

“We are very supportive of children being enrolled in this study,” she said. “Delay in the inclusion of children in vaccine trials involves the potential denial of clinical benefit to the child, their family and their extended family,” said Gray, who was co-principal investigator of the local leg of Johnson & Johnson’s (J&J)  global phase 3 study.

The government is considering using the CoronaVac vaccine in its immunisation programme alongside shots developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and J&J, which have been administered so far.

The SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) in July gave conditional authorisation for use of Sinovac’s vaccine against Covid-19 for people aged between 18 and 59 years. But in August a senior health official said the government was looking for more information from the Chinese company on how its vaccine performs against the Delta coronavirus variant as well as in populations with HIV.

SA’s vaccination campaign started slowly due to onerous negotiations with pharmaceutical companies and the emergence of the Beta coronavirus variant, which scuppered plans to use AstraZeneca’s shot from February. 

So far, more than 10.5-million of the country’s 60-million people have received at least one dose of vaccine, equivalent to about 17% of the population.

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