Merck has announced plans to build a vaccine manufacturing facility in Ghana.

Ghana will become the first country in Sub-Saharan Africa to have a dedicated human vaccine manufacturing factory. With 99% of the vaccines produced by Merck imported to Africa, the company hopes the new facility will streamline its manufacturing processes.

Merck signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Ridge Management Solutions in December 2017 to build a facility for the manufacture of a diverse range of products. Merck will provide technology and training to a local team.

Merck Life Science executive board member and CEO Udit Batra said: “We want to support emerging economies by sharing our expertise, helping them streamline their manufacturing processes while supporting technology transfer and local facility startup.”

In 2015, Merck acquired Sigma-Aldrich as part of a plan to increase its presence in Africa, which currently has 0.1% of the world’s vaccine production.

The cost of vaccination in developing countries has risen substantially in recent years. A report by Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) in 2015 found that the cost of vaccines recommended by the World Health Organization’s childhood immunisation schedule had risen by 68% from 2001 to 2014.

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MSF has called for pharmaceutical companies such GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer to lower the price of vaccines against pneumococcal disease, calling for the price to be reduced to $5 per child in developing countries.

In a statement, Merck said the partnership would further the company’s commitment to improving global health by making vaccines more affordable and available.

Batra said: “Merck is committed to expanding access to advanced drug therapies, especially in low and middle-income countries. Together, with our partners, we have shaped how vaccine production is done today and are helping to solve the toughest problems of tomorrow.”