Messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines, such as the COVID-19 vaccines made by Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech, have been hailed for their manufacturing advantages over conventional vaccines – so much so that African leaders such as President Cyril Ramaphosa has called for mRNA production capacity to be developed in Africa. Catherine Tomlinson examines why mRNA vaccines are easier to make than some other types of vaccines and asks what it will take to build such production capacity.
In late January, Dr Anban Pillay, Deputy Director-General in South Africa’s National Department of Health, revealed that South Africa would pay more than double the price paid by the European Union (EU) for AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine. This set off a flurry of questions on how vaccine prices are set and why, in many cases, the prices themselves are not known to the public. Catherine Tomlinson takes a closer look at the issues involved.