Rwanda’s First mRNA Vaccine Production Facility: Important Facts

Rwanda has taken a significant step forward in its fight against infectious diseases by becoming the first African country to house a facility for manufacturing messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines. The facility, spanning across 800 square meters of space, is capable of conducting trials of new therapeutics to combat diseases like TB, HIV and others.

Biontainers Mobile mRNA Factories

The mRNA vaccine facility in Rwanda is made up of six mobile factories called Biontainers. They were developed by the German pharmaceutical company BioNTech. The facility is capable of producing a maximum of 50 million doses of vaccines per annum. The modular system of the Biontainers consists of two modules, each made up of six containers. In the first module, mRNA is produced and purified. In the second, it is made into a vaccine.

mRNA Vaccines and their Significance

mRNA is a type of RNA that is necessary for protein production. mRNA vaccines work by introducing a piece that corresponds to a viral protein. The mRNA instructs cells to produce that protein, which triggers an immune response. The body then produces antibodies to fight off the virus if it encounters it in the future.

The significance of the mRNA vaccines is that they can be developed more quickly than traditional vaccines. mRNA vaccines have shown high efficacy against COVID-19 and are being widely used across the world.

Trials on Infectious Diseases

Apart from producing COVID-19 vaccines, the facility in Rwanda will also help conduct trials on new therapeutics for infectious diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis, HIV and cancers. This will be a significant milestone not only for Rwanda but also for Africa, which contributes only 2 per cent of clinical trial research output, according to the health ministry. The mRNA vaccine facility will also help to increase Africa’s contribution to global science and pandemic preparedness.

Improved Vaccine Access

The arrival of the Biontainers in Rwanda will improve vaccine access not only in Rwanda but also in other African Union countries. The facility will help address the vaccine scarcity that Africa has been experiencing.




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