LA Times owner offers $210million to create new Covid vaccines in South Africa

The county has only vaccinated 0.71 per cent of its population

Louise Hall
Thursday 13 May 2021 14:33 BST
Fauci rejects drugmakers' claims patent waivers prevent scaling up vaccine production
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A US billionaire has announced he will offer 3bn South African rand (£152m) to South Africa, where he was born, to help create coronavirus vaccines.

The New York Times reports that Dr Patrick Soon-Shiong, who owns TheLos Angeles Times, said on Wednesday that his business and philanthropic foundation would donate the money.

The money will be used to send the technology for producing vaccines and biological therapies to get ahead of the pandemic and make shots that will combat the new variants of the disease.

“Our goal and our commitment is to come back to South Africa and transfer this kind of technology,” Dr Soon-Shiong reportedly said at an international meeting on the equitable distribution of coronavirus vaccines.

Referring to South Africa, he said, “Not only do we have the science, we have the human capital and the capacity and the desire.”

During the meeting, which was co-chaired by the director-general of the World Health Organisation (WHO), the biotech billionaire said that the transfer of technology was as important as waiving intellectual property rights to shots.

Western countries have been facing increased pressure to support a temporary waiver on intellectual property protections for Covid-19 vaccines to allow corporations in other nations to produce the shot themselves amid the ongoing health crisis.

Experts have expressed concern over the equitable sharing of coronavirus vaccines across the world, warning that continued failure to spread resources evenly could only prolong the pandemic and create more suffering.

Poorer countries across the world have encountered shortages of vaccines as richer nations buy up the Western-made versions or manufacturers struggle with limited production capacity.

Not only could they be made to wait for shots for years to come, but they are also being charged much higher prices per dose.

In January, the head of the WHO warned that unfair vaccine distribution would risk a “catastrophic moral failure”, saying it would also “prolong the pandemic."

"Not only does this me-first approach leave the world’s poorest and most vulnerable at risk, it is also self-defeating," WHO chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

South Africa has seen more than 1.6 million cases of the novel disease and 54,968 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

In terms of vaccinations, the country has only been able to administer 828,744 doses, which accounts for 0.71 per cent of the population.

Biovac, one of the two manufacturers producing vaccines in South Africa, said it would partner with Dr Soon-Shiong’s company ImmunityBio to help produce experimental coronavirus vaccines, which are currently undergoing clinical trials, The Times reported.

Dr Soon-Shiong also reportedly said that he hopes the transferred technology could also be used to fight other neglected diseases in the country, including schistosomiasis, a parasitic infection common in sub-Saharan Africa.

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