BioNTech, the partner of Pfizer in developing COVID-19 vaccines, is changing its plans to build vaccine manufacturing plants in three African countries. The company is no longer proceeding with a manufacturing facility in South Africa and is instead discussing the possibility of a smaller-scale manufacturing site or an R&D center in Senegal. This could be a setback for Africa’s hopes of vaccine self-reliance. BioNTech had previously shipped six containers to Rwanda as part of its program to ensure equitable access to mRNA technology. The company still plans to establish commercial-scale vaccine facilities in Rwanda but made no mention of manufacturing in South Africa. BioNTech stated that its goal of democratizing access to innovative medicines remains unchanged. The delivery of the BioNTainers to Rwanda was already delayed from the initial announcement. Each BioNTainer module consists of six shipping containers and can produce about 50 million doses of COVID vaccine. There is no set date for the arrival of BioNTainers in Senegal. The project in Senegal is on a different schedule than Rwanda or South Africa. Representatives from the Rwandan government did not provide a comment.
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