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Construction of Biovac ultra-cold storage facility completed

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The commitments made towards investing in South Africa by Pfizer have been realised through the completion of the construction of a Freezer Farm facility at the Biovac’s manufacturing plant in Cape Town.

“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,” said a joint statement by Biovac and Pfizer.

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.

“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,” Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel said last Thursday.

The Freezer Farm facility is a state-of-the-art 1100m2, 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.

Biovac CEO Dr Morena Makhoana said the partnership between Biovac and Pfizer has enabled South Africa to expand its capabilities to locally produce not only the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine, but also the 13 valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine.

This one of the largest paediatric vaccines included in South Africa’s Expanded Programme for Immunization (EPI) – the early childhood pneumococcal conjugate vaccine.

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,” the statement said.

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.

“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,” Global President Pfizer Emerging Markets Nick Lagunowich said.

According to the statement, 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,” the statement said.

United States (US) Consul General Todd P. Haskell said the US government is proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with South Africa in support of US 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. – SAnews.gov.za

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