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Coronavirus: King Mohammed VI kicks off production of ‘made in Morocco’ vaccines

By Fadwa Islah
Posted on Thursday, 8 July 2021 21:26, updated on Friday, 27 August 2021 11:28

King Mohammed VI and Othman Benjelloun (l.), on 6 July 2021, at the Royal Palace in Fez, during which cooperation agreements were signed with Sinopharm © MAP

Morocco was among the world’s pioneers in vaccinating its population against Covid-19 and is now eager to start producing its own vaccines. King Mohammed VI presided over a ceremony on 5 July at the Royal Palace of Fez, during which he signed deals that will now allow Morocco to manufacture Covid-19 vaccines and other serums.

“This project will allow us to produce the Covid vaccine, as well as other key vaccines, in our own country so that the kingdom can become self-sufficient and a leading biotechnology platform on the continent and in the world, within the fill and finish industry,” said the royal cabinet’s statement, which was released on the evening of 6 July.

Health sovereignty

It also aims to “provide the kingdom with complete and integrated industrial and biotechnological capacities, which will be dedicated to manufacturing vaccines in Morocco.” The document states that it is a question of reinforcing the country’s “health sovereignty” in the face of “external dependencies and political contingencies”.

During this ceremony – which was attended by, among others, prime minister Saaddedine El Othmani, royal adviser Fouad Ali El Himma, foreign affairs minister Nasser Bourita, Attijariwafa Bank’s CEO Mohamed Kettani and Banque Populaire’s CEO Mohamed Karim Mounir – several memorandums were signed. The first one was a cooperation agreement between the kingdom and the Chinese pharmaceutical group Sinopharm.

This public-private partnership began after a telephone conversation between King Mohammed VI and China’s President Xi Jinping. Morocco will soon start production – no date has yet been specified – of 5 million doses of Sinopharm’s Covid-19 vaccine per month. It is expected that this capacity will gradually increase in the medium term.

Collaboration with Sothema

The overall investment will represent $500m, according to an agreement signed on 5 July by Mohamed Benchaâboune, the economic and finance minister, Recipharm’s CEO Marc Funk and billionaire Othman Benjelloun, the representative from the consortium of Moroccan banks. The aim of the project is to establish vaccine manufacturing capacities in Morocco under the best possible conditions and develop, what appears to be, a Chinese-Moroccan pharmaceutical industry giant.

Finally, a contract that allows the Moroccan pharmaceutical laboratory Sothema’s filling facilities to be used to produce Covid-19 vaccines owned by the Chinese company Sinopharm was signed by Lamia Tazi, its CEO, and Khalid Ait Taleb, the health minister. The company participated in Sinopharm’s Phase III clinical trials in Morocco.

Since the start of its vaccination campaign at the end of January, Morocco, which has a population of 36 million, has vaccinated more than 10 million people, 9.1 million of whom have already received the required two injections.

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