‘Vaccines are our only hope of a return to normal’ – expert during UP webinar on vaccine manufacturing in SA

Posted on July 23, 2021

“Vaccines are what essentially stands between you and I, and permanent lockdown – the thought of which is horrid.” This is according to leading researcher and academic Professor David Walwyn of the University of Pretoria’s (UP) Graduate School of Technology Management (GTM), which recently hosted a public seminar that focused on the hot topic of the local manufacture of vaccines.  

The virtual seminar was delivered by Prof Walwyn and featured a discussion about how vaccine manufacturing in South Africa has taken place in the past and what its challenges have been.

Prof Walwyn began the discussion by illustrating the current global picture of the distribution of vaccines for COVID-19, saying that by the end of May 2021, about 40% of all administered vaccines had been carried out in high-income countries and adding that this shows just how much of an impact money has on the ability of countries to access the vaccine.

“Another 45% or so has been administered in upper-middle-income countries, with the remainder being administered in lower-middle-income countries, and almost nothing in low-income countries,” he explained. “This highlights what has become known as vaccine nationalism.”

With the help of a diagram, Prof Walwyn painted a picture of the capabilities of countries in terms of manufacturing their own vaccines. He showed that nations like the US and the UK have existing capabilities to manufacture vaccines and so are more likely to immunise their citizens.

“By way of attempting to rescue or maintaining South Africa’s capability in vaccine manufacture, the Biovac Institute, a public-private partnership, was set up in 2002, almost 20 years ago,” Prof Walwyn said.

The seminar also addressed the impact of the shift in world trade agreements and patterns, and how the collapse of local industries led to the further weakening of the country’s vaccine production capability, and what this means for South Africa’s ability to create COVID-19 vaccines locally in 2021.

Watch the full seminar on YouTube.

- Author Masego Panyane

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