World's biggest vaccine maker mulls Africa plant

STORY: The world's biggest vaccine maker is considering setting up it first manufacturing plant in Africa, its chief executive said on Monday (May 24).

In an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Adar Poonawalla said the Serum Institute of India, or SII, was looking to expand globally after its success selling COVID-19 shots.

"We've already got some capacity outside of India and we'll probably look at something on the African continent because, you know, in this pandemic, one thing was very clear. Most regions or groups of countries that did not have access to vaccines suffered a little bit. They had to wait a little bit longer. And they all want investment in those nations."

Africa was the only continent that did not have its own manufacturing capacity for COVID vaccines during the worst phases of the pandemic.

That left it at the mercy of overseas suppliers, including SII.

The company sold more than 1.5 billion doses in India and exported millions more.

Poonawalla said he was meeting some African officials in Davos to discuss the plans.

"Well, we're looking at different countries at the moment, have been meeting some leaders. It wouldn't be right to right now to mention what that would be. But, you know, there's some great countries out there, South Africa, Rwanda, you know, to name a few, that we're looking at. Let's see what happens."

Asked about possible investments, Poonawalla said such projects typically required at least $300m.

He did not say what products on African plant might make.

Apart from COVID vaccines, SII's Indian facilities make shots to protect against diseases including diphtheria, tuberculosis, measles, and rubella.