ImmunityBio Covid-19 vaccine to be made in SA, pending approval

By Antony Sguazzin

(Bloomberg) – ImmunityBio Inc. will have its first Covid-19 vaccine made in South Africa by The Biovac Institute, a partly state-owned company, once regulators approve it.

Production of the U.S. company’s vaccine in South Africa will bolster its role as the only country in Africa to produce the shots. Aspen Pharmacare Holdings Ltd. is due to start making Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot doses in the second quarter of this year at a factory in Gqeberha, in the country’s Eastern Cape Province.

ImmunityBio’s vaccine, which is in phase 1 trials in South Africa and the U.S., uses a cold germ, known as adenovirus 5, to act against the coronavirus. Its so-called hAd5 T-cell kills infected cells and in addition to the spike proteins found on the coronavirus the shot targets the nucleocapsid protein, which is less prone to mutations. That could make it more effective against strains such as the one first found in South Africa late last year, ImmunityBio and Biovac said in a statement.

South Africa has had more than 1.5 million confirmed coronavirus cases and almost 52,000 deaths, making it the hardest-hit country on the continent.

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