In a historic development this week, Botswana joined the eminent league of nations that are crushing what is thus far the worst terror of the 21st Century COVID-19, by adding its own Pula Corbevax vaccine to the existing suite that is set to be the most efficacious. KATLEGO RAKOLA reports
The Founder of the first COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing company in Botswana and Africa, Dr Patrick Soon-Shiong, has pledged 100 million doses of Pula Corbevax vaccine to Botswana.
This emerged in the course of the official opening of Dr Soon-Shiong’s company NantWorks, at Botswana Digital and Innovation Hub (BDIH) in Gaborone on Monday this week where vaccines are already being manufactured for distribution to places of need around the world.
According to the Director of Government Communications, Gomolemo Zimona, told Dr Soon-Shiong wants to ensure there is sustainable supply of vaccines in Botswana and the southern African region. “What it means is that at intervals, whenever the government is in need of vaccines, they will be immediately supplied from the plant,” Zimona said.
The government signed an agreement with NantWorks to set up in Botswana last December. Building the plant ensued soon after until the ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by President Mokgweetsi Masisi this week.
“With manufacturing of the Pula Corbevax, it was more of transfer of technology from one area to the next,” Zimona told The Botswana Gazette. “There was not so much being set up as there was sharing of knowledge. The vaccines will now be manufactured in Botswana and distributed to where they are needed.”
Zimona emphasised that unlike other COVID-19 vaccines, Pula Corbevax kills the virus in the body and can overcome every variant, including Omicron. The vaccine is historically approved and recognised as the first vaccine for Africa made in Botswana. In addition to the unprecedented efficacy of the vaccine, it is envisaged that the initiative will create much-needed jobs for young Batswana.
Beyond the vaccine production plant in Gaborone, the US conglomerate NantWorks has committed to playing a role in development of Maun Science Park. The park, is one of President Masisi’s pet projects and is being overseen by a Brussels-based NGO that seeks to turn the safari destination of Maun into a technology hub.
Based in California, NantWorks is also expected to improve health management systems and sustainable water generation at Lobu Farm.
NantWorks is a multinational conglomerate holding company that owns a number of companies in the fields of healthcare, biotech, artificial intelligence startups, as well as venture capital firms in the healthcare, education, science and technology sectors.
The company expressed interest to set up in Botswana during President Masisi’s visit to California in September last year.