Morocco starts construction of COVID vaccine plant

Morocco hopes plant will produce 116 million vaccine units by 2024; flight ban to the kingdom to end on February 7.

Moroccans sit at Marrakesh's Jemaa el-Fna square.
A flight ban since November has dealt a punishing blow to the North African country’s vital tourism sector [File: Fadel Senna/AFP]

Morocco has inaugurated the construction of a COVID vaccine manufacturing plant in partnership with Swedish firm Recipharm, as the country also announced it would end a flight ban that has been in place since last November.

The factory, to be known as Sensyo Pharmatech, will produce vaccines against coronavirus and other diseases, with production expected to reach 116 million units in 2024, the official news agency MAP reported on Thursday.

It was launched in Benslimane, a region of Morocco’s economic hub Casablanca, during a ceremony attended by King Mohamed VI.

The plant will need investments of between 400-500 million euros ($445m-557m) and is aimed at ensuring vaccine “self-sufficiency” for the North African kingdom.

MAP added that the goal was to make, between 2022 and 2025, “active substances for more than 20 vaccines, three of which would be against coronavirus… to cover 70 percent of the kingdom’s needs and more than 60 percent of needs across Africa”.

Morocco is already producing the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine, with more than three million doses being made per month.

By next month it plans on producing five million doses and more than 20 million by the end of the year.

Home to 36 million inhabitants, Morocco is hoping that its vaccination drive will help eradicate COVID-19.

More than 23 million people have already received a second dose against coronavirus, according to the health ministry.

Authorities hope to vaccinate 80 percent of the population with either Sinopharm or Pfizer-BioNTech.

In July, Recipharm said it had signed a memorandum of understanding with Morocco and a consortium of the country’s leading banks to build a factory to produce vaccines and biotherapeutics in the kingdom.

Flight ban

Also on Thursday, Morocco said it would end a ban on flights to the kingdom in place since November 29 in an effort to limit the spread of the Omicron variant of coronavirus.

A government statement published by MAP said that the ban would end on February 7.

The decision followed “the evolution of the epidemiological situation in the kingdom”, the statement said, adding that entry requirements for visitors would be announced at a later date.

Rabat imposed restrictions to run initially from late November until December 31, although a mechanism had been in place for Moroccan citizens stranded abroad to travel home.

But in December Rabat stopped that mechanism, leading to the de facto closure of the country’s borders.

The only passenger movements permitted under the current rules have been one-off repatriation flights for foreign citizens in the kingdom, authorised on a case-by-case basis.

Source: News Agencies