Pfizer pledges R255 million into SA pharmaceutical sector
Multinational pharmaceutical company, Pfizer, has said it will invest R255 million into South Africa’s pharmaceutical sector through its partnership with the Biovac Institute.
The announcement was made by Pfizer’s regional president for Africa and the Middle East (AfME) Patrick van der Loo, at the 4th SA Investment Conference held at the Sandton Convention Centre on Thursday.
“Our company purpose is centred around breakthroughs that change patients’ lives. We are taking another significant step towards making this a reality for our patients in this country,” explains van der Loo.
The investment by a big pharma company has been labelled as a crucial step forward in strengthening sustainable access to vaccines.
The worldwide Covid-19 pandemic exposed poorer countries to unequal access to life-saving medication while first world countries hoarded vaccines, and in some cases ordered more than was necessary.
It hoped South Africa’s Biovac facility will assist in closing the gap for the country and other African nations which often have to turn to western countries with begging bowls for medical assistance.
Van der Loo visited the Biovac facility on Thursday to meet the institute’s leadership team and its employees.
“This is one of the few countries to meet the criteria for Pfizer’s technology transfer initiatives in the vaccine space.
We hope to continue being a vector for greater knowledge transfer into South Africa and the continent, and ensure a future with the sustainable supply of affordable vaccines and other medicines in Africa,” he added.
Pfizer and Biovac’s long-standing history
This is just the latest venture in Pfizer’s partnership with Biovac which stretches back to 2015 when the companies began working together on sterile formulation, fill, finish, and distribution of the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine.
There’s been significant health value derived from the use of this vaccine, resulting in a reduction in childhood deaths under the age of five.
Last year, in a bid to increase access to Covid-19 vaccines, Pfizer signed a landmark letter of intent with Biovac, which allows the company access to Pfizer vaccine technology and information for the manufacture and distribution of the Covid-19 within the continent.
This earned Biovac the enviable title of becoming the first company on the African continent to produce an mRNA-based vaccine.
But, it’s been a long road for countries like South Africa.
While big pharma companies were hailed for producing the Covid-19 vaccine in record time, they also came under fire for refusing to waive intellectual property rights to vaccine patents that would allow developing countries to manufacture the jabs themselves.
President Cyril Ramaphosa described the move as a breakthrough saying, “This partnership demonstrates what we can achieve when the state sector and the private sector craft a shared vision and pooled resources for the greater good of society”.
Pfizer echoes the president’s belief in the potential that the public-private partnerships model holds to address medical needs, strengthen the country’s health system and help generate new forms of economic activity.
The company anticipates that this investment will deliver jobs on both ends of the skills spectrum, creating direct opportunities for highly qualified individuals and indirectly driving job creation through manufacturing, distribution, and other providers.
Building South Africa’s innovative capacity along with its research and development capabilities is critical and will cement its status as a regional power, which will bode well for the Sub-Saharan region.
Over the years, there have been significant efforts made to position South Africa as the preferred regional hub for innovative pharmaceutical companies.
The country now leads the world in the number of health partnerships with innovative multinational pharmaceutical companies and is increasingly seeing the benefits of being a regional knowledge hub.
“Through this latest investment contribution, Pfizer seeks to reiterate its support of the government’s developmental agenda and its quest to promote access to quality, affordable and universal healthcare.
“We are proud to play a part in ensuring the health and wellbeing of South Africans,” concluded Van der Loo.