Would you take COVID vaccine in pill form? Biovac exploring this possibility

On Thursday, Biovac announced a local manufacturing partnership with US-based immunotherapy firm - ImmunityBio.

FILE: Biovac CEO Morena Makhoana said there were several reasons why a COVID-19 vaccine in the form of a tablet would be better for South Africa. Picture: 123rf.com

JOHANNESBURG/CAPE TOWN – Biovac chief executive officer (CEO) Dr Morena Makhoana on Friday said the company hoped to see the manufacturing of a COVID-19 vaccine in the form of an oral tablet, pending the outcome of a clinical trial, which would make it ideal for South Africans.

On Thursday, Biovac announced a local manufacturing partnership with US-based immunotherapy firm - ImmunityBio.

The collaboration aims to develop capability in South Africa for the full value-chain manufacturing of vaccines.

The first stage of this will be a locally manufactured version of ImmunityBio's second-generation COVID-19 vaccine, which is aimed at being more broadly protective against the virus and its emerging variants.

Makhoana said there were several reasons why a COVID-19 vaccine in the form of a tablet would be better for South Africa.

“It may take us a bit of time to test whether the pill form works equally as the injectable. That would be quite exciting if the vaccine would be in tablet form. If for whatever reason we need to stick to injectables, that should be the case. Many people are afraid of injections, so you are also assisting compliance if people can take that pill.”

LISTEN: Biovac partners with US company to manufacture vaccines locally

SA VACCINE ROLLOUT MOVING 'NOT AT A VERY GOOD PACE'

At the same time, Deputy President David Mabuza on Thursday said the country's COVID-19 vaccination plans were ongoing, but he admitted that it was not moving at the pace government would have liked.

Mabuza said getting their hands on the jabs remained challenging.

“In the next few weeks, we are expecting more vaccines. We thought by the end of March we will reached a million, but it looks like in the second week of April that is when we are going to reach a million. But inoculation is continuing, though not at a very good pace.”

The deputy president, who is also the chairperson of the inter-ministerial committee on COVID-19 vaccines, visited the Biovac Institute in Pinelands on Thursday. The facility helps with the storage of vaccine doses.

Mabuza added that the rollout may have to be delayed.

“I see us pushing back, maybe the second phase might start in the second week of April, because we must first finish with health workers.”

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