Algeria on Wednesday started producing the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Chinese firm Sinovac, with production expected to be eight million doses a month.
Prime Minister Aimene Benabderrahmane, who attended the launch of the production process at a factory in the eastern city of Constantine, called it a ” big achievement”.
Production could be doubled in the North African nation if needed, officials said.
“Algeria aims to achieve other projects of this kind,” Benabderrahmane said, praising the country’s pharmaceutical industry.
Lotfi Djamel Benbahmed, Algeria’s minister for the pharmaceutical industry, has said the country plans to export the vaccines.
More than a year into the coronavirus pandemic, the African continent’s vaccination rate lags far behind other parts of the world at 3 per cent of its 1.3BN people compared to Europe (nearly 50 percent), North America (44 percent), Asia (32 percent), and South America (33 percent).
As of September 2021, there are at least twelve COVID-19 production facilities set up or in the pipeline across six African countries.
African COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing in the coming year could range from Pfizer-BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson vaccines to Russia’s Sputnik V and China’s Sinovac vaccines.
In South Africa, the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, along with European partners, announced a 600 million euro ($710 million) financing package for Aspen Pharmacare. Aspen’s facility has already produced millions of doses and will “fill-and-finish” (i.e. package imported vaccine substance) around 500 million Johnson & Johnson doses by the end of 2022. South Africa’s Biovac Institute has also agreed to accelerate fill-and-finish Pfizer vaccine manufacturing in Cape Town from 2022. In Senegal, the government—with support from the United States and Europe—is building a $200 million COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing facility with the Fondation Institut Pasteur de Dakar. This facility would represent the first on the continent to actually manufacture the substance of vaccines in parallel with fill-and-finish. Starting in November 2021, the Egyptian government says it will start producing Chinese Sinovac at a new Vacsera facility outside Cairo.
In June 2021, the World Trade Organization director expressed interest in creating regional vaccine manufacturing hubs in South Africa, Senegal, Rwanda, or Nigeria; by late August 2021—with support from the EU Commission—BioNTech announced plans to build mRNA vaccine manufacturing facilities in Rwanda and Senegal.
Prime Minister Aimene Benabderrahmane said, Saidal -the firm making the jabs, was so far the only African company to be licenced to produce the jab.
Following a sharp spike in Covid-19 cases in past months, Algeria has seen a drop in recent weeks.
Algeria, the biggest African nation by size, announced this month a campaign to vaccinate some 70 percent of its 44 million population by the end of the year.