Numolux Group, the South African partner of China’s Sinovac Biotech, has said the Chinese firm is in talks about creating a Covid-19 vaccine production site in Africa, as it launches a phase-three trial for use in children.

On Friday, Hilton Klein, the CEO of Numolux Group, said that Sinovac Biotech was eying the creation of a production site in South Africa for the production of Covid-19 vaccines and more. 

“This clinical trial is a precursor to the establishment of a South African vaccine manufacturing facility partnered by Sinovac and Numolux Group that will cover the entire spectrum of vaccinations beyond just the Covid-19 response,” Klein told a news conference.

He said that the vaccine manufacturing facility would be limited to bottling and labelling, allowing the Chinese firm to get vaccines out to the people of Africa as soon as possible. “Vaccines in Africa for Africa,” he added.

Klein was speaking at the launch of Sinovac’s phase-three Covid-19 vaccine trials for use in children. The trial, which is taking place around the world, will see some 2,000 children and adolescents aged six months to 17 years enrolled to test the safety and efficacy of the CoronaVac jab. Globally, the trial will enrol 14,000 people, in Chile, the Philippines, Malaysia, Kenya, and South Africa.

The CoronaVac shot is not yet used in South Africa. In July, SAHPRA, the country’s drug regulator, provided conditional authorization for use of the vaccine in those aged between 18 and 59 years. In August, a senior health official told Reuters that the government needed more information from Sinovac, especially concerning efficacy against the Delta variant and in HIV-positive populations.

Concerns have been raised about the efficacy of the Chinese shot. Developers have suggested a third jab might be needed, with the additional shot raising efficacy to 82%. 

South Africa has one of the fastest inoculation programs on the continent, with around 17% of the population having received one shot.

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