Botswana has become the first African country to approve the use of the Texas-made COVID-19 vaccine Corbevax; in its recently launched Covid 19 Vaccine plant.
The president of Botswana and California-based biotech company NantWorks made the announcement on Monday; as they began construction of a production facility to produce COVID vaccines and as well as drugs to fight cancer.
The CEO of NantWorks Patrick Soon-Shiong announced that Botswana’s Medicines Regulatory Authority (BOMRA); had approved the Corbevax jab.
The announcement was made at a groundbreaking ceremony for a vaccine and cancer drug production plant; along with the President of Botswana Mokgweetsi Masisi.
“I am pleased to announce, Mr. President, with the incredibly hard work of both the Ministry of Health and BOMRA; today we announce Africa’s first approved vaccine for Africa by Botswana,” Soon-Shiong said at the ceremony.
Corbevax is a patent-free COVID vaccine, which was developed by the Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital in the United States. It has also been used in Bangladesh, India, and Indonesia.
Soon-Shiong said the first consignment of the vaccine would be delivered to Botswana for distribution across Africa.
The Botswana Covid 19 Vaccine Plant
“This vaccine has been tested and shown to be active in every variant including omicron. I got a commitment this morning that Botswana, effective immediately, will have access to 100 million of these vaccines that you can distribute,” Soon-Shiong said.
The production facility, which is expected to be fully operational by 2026, plans to produce vaccines for COVID 19 and other diseases, as well as cancer treatment drugs.
President Masisi said the plant heralds a new dawn for the production of pharmaceuticals on the continent.
“This is particularly noteworthy in the Africa region, which bears a disproportionate disease burden exacerbated limitation of resources and capabilities to address these health challenges. We are determined to dictate a new legacy associated with access to medicines, vaccines, and other health technologies,” he said.
The president also added that the Botswana facility would help address vaccine inequality in Africa; where less than 20% of the population is fully vaccinated against COVID 19.
“Disparities in the distribution of vaccines across the world resulted in a lopsided vaccination drive that seriously hampered efforts to effectively contain COVID-19 worldwide. This problem has been aptly defined as vaccine nationalism. It is, therefore, our intent, our conviction that the opening of this vaccine manufacturing facility, will go a long way in changing this narrative,” Masisi added.
Botswana’s Health Minister Edwin Dikoloti also says the project would also help treat chronic diseases.
“This day marks a new level in our scientific development and advancement. It signifies a new technological breakthrough which will see us as not just a consumer but also a manufacturer of vaccines and other medication that will come out of this magnificent project,” Dikoloti said.