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Photo: Michele Spatari/AFP via Getty Images

Pfizer and BioNTech will partner with The Biovac Institute, a South African biopharmaceutical company, to manufacture COVID vaccines for distribution within the African Union, the companies announced Tuesday.

Why it matters: Just 3% of people in Africa have received a single shot, a reflection of the growing gap in vaccine equity around the world. The number of new coronavirus cases in Africa has doubled every three weeks amid a wave of Delta variant infections.

Details: Biovac, which previously worked with Pfizer on the Prevnar 13 vaccine, will manufacture and distribute vaccines within Pfizer and BioNTech's global supply chain. All doses will go exclusively to the African Union's 55 member states.

  • Biovac's Cape Town facility is expected to enter the vaccine supply chain by the end of 2021. Technical transfer, on-site development and equipment installations will begin immediately.
  • Facilities in Europe will provide drug substances. Finished doses will undergo the process of manufacturing starting in 2022.
  • The production will exceed 100 million finished doses annually at full operational capacity, according to Pfizer.

The big picture: In recent weeks, the debate over booster shots has led WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to accuse companies like Pfizer and Moderna of "making conscious choices right now not to protect those in most need."

  • The U.S. is donating roughly 80 million vaccines to lower-income countries including Burkina Faso, Djibouti and Ethiopia.
  • More than one billion people live in African countries.

Go deeper

Updated Oct 28, 2021 - Politics & Policy

DeSantis sues Biden administration over contractor vaccine mandate

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday announced a lawsuit against the Biden administration's order requiring federal contractors to be vaccinated against the coronavirus no later than Dec. 8.

Why it matters: This is the Republican governor's latest attempt to undermine federal vaccine requirements, with the lawsuit alleging that such measures are a "radical intrusion on the personal autonomy" of U.S. workers.

Updated Oct 28, 2021 - Health

NYC firefighters union urges members to defy mayor's vaccine mandate

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

The president of New York City's firefighters' union told reporters Wednesday that he's advised unvaccinated members to ignore Mayor Bill de Blasio's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for city workers, per Reuters.

Why it matters: Under De Blasio's order that's due to take effect Friday, unvaccinated city employees would be placed on unpaid leave. But Uniformed Firefighters Association head Andrew Ansbro said he told members that "if they choose to remain unvaccinated, they must still report for duty," according to Reuters.

Oct 28, 2021 - Health

Study: Common antidepressant guards against COVID hospitalization

A COVID-19 intensive care unit in Rio de Janeiro in May. Photo: Fabio Teixeira/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The readily available antidepressant fluvoxamine significantly reduced COVID-related hospitalizations, according to a large study published Wednesday.

Why it matters: The clinical trial suggests that a cheap, readily available drug could dramatically reduce serious illness and death when prescribed early.