According to a recent Freethink* article, Africa imports over 99% of the vaccines it uses. As COVID-19 vaccines became available, richer countries were able to procure the lion’s share of vaccines, exposing the vulnerability of remote developing countries and the need for more local vaccine production. Not to mention the difficulty of maintaining the cold chain required to preserve vaccine efficacy while transporting them to remote locations. To combat this, BioNTech, maker of one of the first mRNA COVID-20 vaccines, designed a modular mRNA vaccine factory consisting of two modules, each made of six shipping containers.
In the first module of the “BioNTainer,” mRNA is produced and purified. It is then made into a vaccine in the second module, before being packaged into doses by local partners. Because of its modular nature, the factory can be transported via truck, train, or freighter in parts and then assembled on site. Boasting an 8,600 square feet of space, one factory can manufacture 50 million doses each year. The company has finished building its first BioNTainer in Europe, and plans to ship it to Kigalim, Rwanda by the end of Q1. The vaccines manufactured there will be administered domestically or exported to other member countries of the African Union, without a profit margin.