9 March 2023, Cape Town – During a visit to leading local biopharmaceutical, Biovac’s manufacturing facility today, Pfizer and Biovac held a showcase of their partnership, including an official opening ceremony of the recently completed Freezer Farm facility, for a delegation of global Pfizer executives, US Consulate and the Trade, Industry and Competition Minister, Mr. Ebrahim Patel.
The partnership between Pfizer and Biovac goes back a long way, having been first established in 2015 to support the establishment of a sustainable supply of Pfizer’s innovative pneumococcal vaccine - a potentially life-saving vaccine for South African children. Over 20 million doses of vaccines are delivered a year by Biovac, with a significant number of these locally manufactured.
This journey has witnessed the full technology transfer of the innovative 13-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine. With the technology transfer completed in 2022, Biovac can locally manufacture and distribute over three million vaccine doses of the 13-valent pneumococcal conjugate to the National Department of Health annually towards the immunisation of babies in South Africa.
To date, Pfizer has invested over R855 million in Biovac in the form of infrastructure and skills development, with an economic benefit of over R500 million per year to the South African economy. The last investment was announced at the South African Investment Conference in March 2022; a critical step forward in strengthening sustainable access to vaccines and a major boost to pandemic preparedness.
A key deliverable of the additional investment was the construction of the Freezer Farm facility which will serve as an ultra-cold storage facility and adds to the institute’s capacity for vaccine storage and supply. It is a state-of-the-art 1,100m2, two-storey building, which houses 135 ultra-low temperature freezers that allow for the storage of vaccine products up to minus 70 degrees Celsius, and notably, the storage of the locally manufactured Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
Speaking at Biovac today as he inspected the progress made, Minister Ebrahim Patel said, “We are pleased that this partnership between government and the private sector has brought to fruition the pledges made by Pfizer at the last South African Investment Conference. To produce life-saving vaccines is a positive development for South Africa as we are currently dependent on the import of human vaccines. The success of this facility can enable greater health security on the African continent.”
US Consul General Todd P. Haskell shared, “The U.S. government is proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with South Africa in support of U.S. companies such as Pfizer and their South Africa partner Biovac, whose investments make a real difference to health outcomes and support local upliftment – including the creation of jobs and the development of critical skills.”
“Pfizer remains resolute in enabling access to quality, affordable healthcare, and one of the most effective ways to do this is through public-private partnerships like this one with Biovac. We embraced the opportunity to get involved in a collaboration that would contribute to the health and wellbeing of South Africans, as well as Africans across the continent,” said Nick Lagunowich, Global President Pfizer Emerging Markets.
“The partnership between Biovac and Pfizer has enabled us to expand our capabilities to locally produce not only the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID 19 vaccine, but also the 13 valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, one of the largest paediatric vaccines included in South Africa’s Expanded Programme for Immunization (EPI) – the early childhood pneumococcal conjugate vaccine. These partnerships are the building blocks towards the ultimate vision of Biovac being an end-to-end manufacturer of vaccines.,” added Dr Morena Makhoana, Biovac CEO.
Pfizer and Biovac partnership demonstrate the strength and impact of what can be achieved by meaningful public-private partnerships. Of significance is that public-private partnerships are not only beneficial in providing access to healthcare and strengthening health systems, but also in growing the economy and creating jobs. Research indicates that more than 12,500 vaccine-related job roles can be created by 2040 on the continent, up from only 3,000 at present. Furthermore, it has the potential to see an additional 33,000 jobs being created indirectly by industry suppliers. It is our hope that Pfizer’s investment into Biovac will significantly contribute to these numbers in the coming years.