Vaccination Inequality: Blocking Progress

A new report fingers BioNTech as driving an initiative to block manufacture of mRNA vaccines in Africa. The purpose of this effort reportedly is to protect vaccine profit margins.

BioNTech has recruited a lobbying agency to try to discredit a technology transfer program of the World Health Organization (WHO). The lobby agency is the kENUP Foundation. The effort is to get the South African government to reverse a decision on the creation of a technology transfer hub, and instead support an alternative solution that experts characterize as “nonsense” — in other words, the alternative could never be implemented, leaving Africa dependent on imports of vaccines from existing manufacturers in Europe and Asia.

BioNTech is a partner with Pfizer in vaccine development. While Moderna is in negotiations with WHO, both BioNTech and Moderna subsequently have announced plans to build manufacturing plants in other countries in Africa.

Scientists argue that lack of supply has been a factor in low vaccination rates in Africa. Lack of a manufacturing facility on the continent has contributed to the supply issue.

The original report in BMJ, the journal of the British Medical Association, can be found at https://www.bmj.com/content/376/bmj.o304. The report is the result of an inquiry funded and conducted by the investigative arm of the BMJ.

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