Rwanda President seeks to bring first mRNA vaccine plant to Africa

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 11: President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame speaks during the London Summit on Family Planning on July 11, 2012 in London, England. The London Summit on Family Planning is organised by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with the UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund) to mobilise global policy and to support the rights of women across the world with contraceptive information and services. (Photo by Carl Court - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Rwandan President Paul Kagame said his country is in talks to establish the first mRNA vaccine plant in Africa as the continent battles the coronavirus pandemic.

“Rwanda is working with partners to bring the first mRNA manufacturing facility to Africa,” Kagame said at a virtual event this week organized by the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response. He didn’t give further detail

Africa has few manufacturing facilities of any kind and most that do exist can only package and distribute the inoculations — so called fill-finish facilities — rather than make the ingredients needed for the shots.

mRNA vaccines differ from traditional inoculations in that they use edited messenger RNA, or ribonucleic acid, to protect the body against pathogens. Pfizer Inc., together with BioNTech SE, has developed an mRNA vaccine to fight Covid-19, as has Moderna Inc.

Their shots have so far proved more effective than those produced by other companies using more traditional methods. “I had the opportunity to initiate contacts with different manufacturers of vaccines specifically focusing on the messenger RNA technique used by Moderna and Pfizer,” Kagame said last month.

“We have been involved in discussions and I have briefed a few colleagues on our continent but we want to take it forward by discussing it with others.” To date, only about 20 million Africans out of a continent of 1.3 billion have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

(With input from Bloomberg)