Egypt to begin manufacturing mRNA vaccines within months: Official

Ahram Online , Monday 21 Feb 2022

Egypt has started drawing up plans to begin producing mRNA COVID-19 vaccines over the next few months, an Egyptian official said on Sunday after the country was chosen – along with five other African nations – by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to receive the technology needed for production.

Vials with Pfizer/BioNTech s Comirnaty vaccine are pictured at Allergopharma s production facilities in Reinbek near Hamburg, Germany, April 30, 2021. AFP

The process will include extracting the raw material needed to produce mRNA vaccines – like the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines – Hossam Abdel-Ghaffar, the spokesman for the Ministry of Health and Population, told the media on Sunday evening.

Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia have been selected by the WHO to be the first on the continent to join the technology transfer project, first initiated in South Africa in 2021.

The WHO-affiliated technology transfer project aims to help low- and middle-income countries manufacture mRNA vaccines at scale and according to international standards.  

To avoid serious consequences, mRNA vaccines help bodies produce a protein that triggers an immune response, unlike other vaccines that work by introducing a weakened or inactivated germ into the body.

Abdel-Ghaffar added that such a "huge" step will help Egypt become a regional hub for manufacturing coronavirus vaccines.

Egypt was selected by the WHO, Abde-Ghaffar noted, due to its "solid" legislative structure represented in the drug authority law and the clinical research law, which enables manufacturing bodies to function amid clear governing rules.

The country also possesses researchers, experts, and state-owned and non-state-owned factories, in addition to road grids linking its governorates and a transport network that can transfer vaccines to any country in Africa and the world.

In June 2021, the WHO announced that it had selected a South African consortium to run the technology transfer project, with the training of the recipient countries scheduled to begin in March.

Clinical trials for the awaited vaccines are expected to start in the fourth quarter of 2022, while a first approval could potentially be in 2024, according to the WHO.

Egypt, through state-run Egyptian Holding Company for Biological Products and Vaccines VACSERA, is already producing the China-made Sinovac vaccine as part of an agreement with the Chinese side, which provides the African country with the needed raw materials.

In mid-November 2021, Egypt also announced the start of clinical trials for its first coronavirus vaccine COVI-VAX, a step that officials said would take six to nine months.

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