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South Africa's Biovac to start making Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in early 2022 - exec

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KIGALI, Dec 6 (Reuters) - South Africa's Biovac Institute will start making Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine early next year after receiving the drug substance from facilities in Europe, a Pfizer executive said on Monday.

That earlier than the forecast start at around the second half of 2022 given by Cape Town-based Biovac's chief executive in July when the partnership between the companies was announced.

The deal to "fill and finish" the vaccine, the final stages of manufacturing where the product is processed and put into vials, will make Biovac one of the few companies processing COVID-19 shots in Africa, where many countries have struggled to access sufficient doses during the pandemic.

"We expect that the Cape Town facility will be incorporated into our supply chain by the end of this year, so a few weeks to go. Biovac will obtain the drug substance from facilities in Europe and manufacturing of finished doses will commence early in 2022," Patrick van der Loo, Pfizer regional president for Africa and the Middle East, told a conference on vaccine manufacturing in Africa.

He added that Pfizer was exploring ways of bringing other partners into its supply chain to accelerate access to its COVID-19 shot.

In July Pfizer's CEO urged World Trade Organization members not to support a waiver on some intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines - a proposal by South Africa and India which has yet to be agreed despite months of debate and U.S. President Joe Biden expressing support.

(Reporting by Clement Uwiringiyimana and Estelle Shirbon Writing by Alexander Winning, Editing by Louise Heavens)

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