In boost for Africa, Senegal to make COVID shots

Senegal could begin producing COVID-19 vaccines next year under an agreement with Belgium's Univercells, a source involved in funding the project and a company official told Reuters.

It's part of a global push to channel money and technology towards production in Africa, which makes only 1% of the vaccines it requires.

African nations are still struggling to acquire shots as wealthy countries start to reopen, and on a continent of 1.3 billion, only about 7 million have been fully vaccinated.

Under the agreement, the Institut Pasteur in Senegal's capital, Dakar, would initially begin packaging and distributing vaccines produced by Univercells in Belgium early next year.

Univercells hopes to move its production line to Senegal in the second half of 2022, the source said, and the company would train local staff so they could eventually take over.

Univercells chief investment officer Kate Antrobus said the Senegalese site would be able to manufacture a class of so-called viral vector COVID-19 vaccine, the type developed by Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca.

And could then use that capacity for other viruses in future.

Senegal's Institut Pasteur is the only facility in Africa currently producing a vaccine - a yellow fever shot - that is prequalified by the World Health Organization as meeting international standards.

Donors including the United States and the European Union are lining up to help fund an expansion at the institute so it can make COVID-19 vaccines, the source involved in fundraising said.

The European Union said last month that it will invest at least 1 billion euros to build manufacturing hubs in Africa.

Senegal, South Africa, Rwanda, Morocco and Egypt are among the leading candidates.

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