President Paul Kagame of Rwanda this afternoon joined other leaders at the ground breaking at a site that will host the BioNTech Group Vaccine Manufacturing Facility in the country.
BioNTech had earlier said that this will be the first state-of-the-art manufacturing site for mRNA-based vaccines in the African Union.
The choice of Rwanda to host this facility resulted from a meeting between Rwanda’s Minister of Health, Dr Daniel M. Ngamije, Senegal’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Aïssata Tall Sall, Ugur Sahin, M.D.,CEO and Co-Founder of BioNTech and Sierk Poetting, COO of BioNTech as well as Dr Sabin Nsanzimana, Director-General of Rwanda Biomedical Centre and Dr Amadou Alpha Sall, Directeur-General of Institut Pasteur de Dakar in Kigali, Rwanda.
“Proud and honoured to witness this historic moment in Africa: the groundbreaking launch of the first mRNA hub that will be built in Rwanda and help accelerate Vaccine Equity for our brothers and sisters across the continent,” noted Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus Director-General of the World Health Organization.
“State-of-the-art facilities like this will be life-savers and game-changers for Africa and could lead to millions of cutting edge vaccines being made for Africans, by Africans in Africa,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization Regional Director for Africa.
“This is also crucial for transferring knowledge and know-how, bringing in new jobs and skills and ultimately strengthening Africa’s health security. WHO is ready to work with countries to step up their commitment to vaccine manufacturing.”
The German company’s partially prefabricated “containerised” labs are slated to be installed in July 2022 and are expected to reduce construction time by around 12 months. The first vaccines produced on Rwandan soil are due to roll off the production line 24 months later.
Ownership and operation will be gradually transferred from BioNTech staff to Rwandan management. BioNTech expects its Rwanda-Senegal “production line” to have the initial capacity to produce 50m vaccine doses per year.
But although BioNTech is best known for its ground-breaking messenger RNA (MRNA) Covid-19 vaccine, the significance of its two new African manufacturing centres will most probably outlive the current pandemic.