Industrial Scale Production of the R21c/Matrix-M Malaria Vaccine for Sub-Saharan Africa; An Analysis of the Failure of the World Health Organization’s 70% COVID-19 Vaccination Goal in Developing African Countries Using Actor Network Theory Framework

Wonsik, William, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Laugelli, Benjamin, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia
Anderson, Eric, EN-Chem Engr Dept, University of Virginia

In the technical portion of my thesis, my team designed an industrial scale production plant of Oxford’s R21c/Matrix M malaria vaccine intended to provide the vaccine to children under 5 in Sub-Saharan Africa. My team assumed an annual penetration rate of 70% of annual births and 20% of current children under 5 in Sub-Saharan Africa, to give a yearly target of 68 million children. At 4 doses per child, this gives an annual production of 272 million vaccines. The manufacturing process involves the fermentation of Pichia Pastorius, a genetically modified yeast, in a final working volume of 2,300 L. The yeast is genetically modified to produce R21c when exposed to methanol. Then, the solution goes through various purification steps, like homogenization, centrifugation, ultrafiltration, and multiple chromatography steps, to isolate and purify the R21c antigen. The purified product is then filled into vials and lyophilized to distribute for administration with the Matrix M adjuvant.
My STS research explores vaccine distribution in Sub-Saharan Africa. My research focuses on the failure of the global Covid-19 vaccine network which resulted in inequitable vaccine distribution for developing African countries. I examined the World Health Organization’s published guidelines for achieving 70% global vaccine coverage. I use Actor Network Theory to show how various rogue actors cause the vaccine distribution network to fail. My claim is that the World Health Organization, High Coverage Countries, and pharmaceutical companies caused the network to fail, which resulted in the inequitable distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine in developing African countries. The goal of my research is to understand the factors that impact vaccine distribution.
Working on these two projects simultaneously allowed me to better understand the many factors that influence the success or failure of a vaccine. My technical work gave me a better understanding of the vaccine production process and the various regulations that must be followed. Additionally, my STS research helped me see the other nontechnical factors that impact the ability of a vaccine to help the target population. In summary, working on my technical project and STS research paper together this past year has allowed me to fully understand the factors that impact the ability of a vaccine to reach the desired target.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Malaria, Vaccine, R21, R21c, Matrix M, Actor Network Theory, World Health Organization, Covid 19 Vaccination
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