Pop-up vaccine factories for Africa labelled ‘neo-colonial stunt’

Pop-up vaccine factories for Africa labelled ‘neo-colonial stunt’

Date: 16 February 2022
Campaigns: Pharma

  • German vaccine giant BioNTech’s move is attempt to stall pressure for wider tech transfer, campaigners say

Responding to BioNTech’s ‘modular mRNA manufacturing facility to promote scalable vaccine production in Africa’ (1), Tim Bierley, pharma campaigner at Global Justice Now said:

“After a year of stalling efforts to scale up global vaccine production, BioNTech’s pop-up vaccine factories are little more than a neo-colonial stunt to try and maintain control of this life-saving technology in Africa.

“Under the first phase of the plan, BioNTech will use European staff to manage their ‘shipping containers’, while local producers are relegated to putting the vaccines into bottles. Any possibility of knowledge transfer is pushed off far into the future. This is inexcusable when we know there are several factories in Africa with the capacity to create these kinds of vaccines today, if BioNTech and others were willing to share the tech in this global emergency.(2)

“With South Africa’s vaccine hub already having success in reverse engineering the Moderna vaccine, this looks like a last-ditch attempt to make sure mRNA technology remains in Western hands as long as possible. You would struggle to do less to support local vaccine production in Africa while still technically making some vaccines in Africa.”

The announcement follows reports in the BMJ last week that BioNTech has been accused of seeking to undermine efforts to bring vaccine manufacturing to Africa through a foundation. (3)

Notes

1. BioNTech introduces first modular mRNA manufacturing facility to promote scalable vaccine production in Africa, https://investors.biontech.de/news-releases/news-release-details/biontech-introduces-first-modular-mrna-manufacturing-facility

2. In December, experts including MSF, AccessIBSA and Human Rights Watch identified more than 100 global south manufacturers capable of producing mRNA vaccines, https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/12/15/experts-identify-100-plus-firms-make-covid-19-mrna-vaccines

3. Covid-19: WHO efforts to bring vaccine manufacturing to Africa are undermined by the drug industry, documents show, https://www.bmj.com/content/376/bmj.o304

Media contact

Jonathan Stevenson, Global Justice Now
+44 7711 875345
jonathan.stevenson@globaljustice.org.uk


Photo: Lupmotion/Shutterstock

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