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South Africa to host vaccine tech transfer hub

Ramaphosa received his own first Covid-19 vaccine dose in February

South Africa is set to host a “technology transfer hub” for coronavirus vaccines to scale up production know-how in Africa’s worst-hit nation, President Cyril Ramaphosa said Monday.

Ramaphosa said French President Emmanuel Macron and World Health Organisation chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus would join him at a media briefing to announce the initiative at 1500 GMT.

“The briefing will focus on the establishment of the first messenger RNA technology transfer hub for Covid-19 vaccines, located in South Africa,” the presidency said in a brief statement.

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The WHO has previously set up such hubs, which provide know-how and training to local manufacturers, to boost global production of influenza vaccines.

During a visit to South Africa last month, Macron said he was pushing for faster transfer of technology to allow poorer countries to start manufacturing their own Covid-19 jabs.

In Africa only about one percent of the population is fully vaccinated, according to WHO figures.

South Africa, along with India, has been pushing for a temporary waiver of vaccines’ intellectual property rights in order to speed up production.

South Africa accounts for over 35 percent of Africa’s total recorded Covid-19 cases, and is currently suffering a third wave of mass infections.

Ramaphosa on Monday said the daily caseload had soared 1,500 percent since April, when there were less than 800 cases a day, to over 13,000 in the past week.

“The climb in new cases has been extraordinarily rapid and steep,” he said in his weekly newsletter.

South Africa’s third wave coincides with a struggling vaccine rollout, with just over two million of the 59 million-strong population receiving at least one dose since February.

Vaccinations have so far only been open to health workers and the over-60s, with teachers due to become eligible to receive a shot from Wednesday.

South Africa has so far been administering the Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, and the country’s health regulator said Monday that evaluation for approval of China’s Coronavac “is at a very advanced stage”.

Gauteng, the country’s most populous province and commercial hub, is the epicentre of the latest outbreak.

It has already seen new infections exceed peaks in the two previous waves.

Last week the government announced the deployment of army medical personnel to help health workers in Gauteng, where Ramaphosa said “hospitals are reaching capacity, and healthcare workers are exhausted”.

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