Biovac CEO Dr Morena Makhoana
Bio-pharmaceutical company Biovac CEO Dr Morena Makhoana on Thursday lauded the commencement of local manufacturing of a six-in-one paediatric vaccine, saying through local manufacturing the company will be able to further strengthen security of supply whilst contributing to the local economy.
This is the first time since the mid-1990s, that any sterile manufacturing of human vaccines has been done in South Africa.
Makhoana was speaking during a media briefing, announcing the local manufacturing of global pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur’s six-in-one hexavalent paediatric vaccine, which aims to prevent six childhood diseases – diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis b, haemophilus influenza b and poliomyelitis.
“Biovac is extremely proud to be able to commence local manufacture of one of the most complex combination vaccines, globally. This will further strengthen our contribution to the local bio-economy, by producing vaccines that are relevant for South Africa with a high public health benefit,” he said.
Biovac has been labelling and packaging the vaccine for the past five years and is now approved by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority, to manufacture under sterile conditions. This is the first technology transfer of this vaccine by Sanofi to an external partner.
This combination vaccine reduces the risk of needle stick injuries associated with multiple injections, increases compliance and reduces the cold chain requirements needed in healthcare facilities.
Meanwhile, Sanofi Pasteur head of commercial operations Stephen Alix pointed out that, although South Africa was a developing economy, its public vaccine schedule was robust and world class.
Introduced to the Department of Health’s Expanded Programmes Immunisation since 2015, this vaccine has been administered to over five-million infants to date.
The hexavalent vaccine does not need to be mixed before injection, which Biovac says makes it easier to administer in remote and resource-poor health settings.
Alix said production and supply of vaccines were quite sophisticated, especially for the six-in-one combination vaccine, as a single vaccine may take up to 36 months to be manufactured.
PARTNERING WITH GOVERNMENT AND STAKEHOLDERS
Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation Dr Blade Nzimande congratulated Biovac and called it a significant milestone for Biovac and South Africa’s ability to build manufacturing capabilities for vaccine.
He reiterated that the announcement marked almost two decades during which South Africa’s vaccine production had declined and said this development would result in many positive spin-offs for South Africa.
The manufacturing of this vaccine was a strong indication of the technical abilities of South African scientists, he added and said it would also contribute to the redaction of the balance of payment as an estimated R350-million a year will be retained in South Africa.
Nzimande said the production of vaccines, especially paediatric vaccines, was about protecting children and, therefore, protecting the future.
“Long-term commitment and partnering with governments and stakeholders are imperative to ensure sustainability of vaccines. The strategy for South Africa and Africa is to work with our partners and governments to increase vaccine coverage by ensuring that every child is vaccinated against vaccine-preventable diseases,” Alix added.