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.

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.”