An evaluation of South Africa’s public–private partnership for the localisation of vaccine research, manufacture and distribution

Health Research Policy and Systems
[Accessed 31 March 2018]

27 March 2018
An evaluation of South Africa’s public–private partnership for the localisation of vaccine research, manufacture and distribution
Authors: David R. Walwyn and Adolph T. Nkolele
Public–private partnerships (PPPs), widely used as a means of leveraging the skills, expertise and resources of the private sector to mutual advantage, were similarly adopted by South Africa to support public sector delivery. This study has evaluated one such partnership, namely the Biovac Institute, which was established in 2003 to cover vaccine research and development, manufacturing, and supply. The initiative was highly unusual given that it attempted to combine all three aspects in a single PPP.
The research has followed a concurrent mixed methods approach. In the quantitative study, data for prices and product volumes were extracted from secondary data sources and used to calculate the economic cost and value-for-money of the PPP. Simultaneously, a qualitative study was undertaken in which a number of key stakeholders were interviewed using a semi-structured questionnaire on their perceptions of the PPP’s value.
The institute earns a premium on the procurement cost of a broad range of vaccines required by the South African National Department of Health for its immunisation programme, the net value of which was US$85.7 million over the period 2010 to 2014. These funds were used to finance the institute’s operations, including vaccine research, distribution and quality control. Capital expenditure to support the establishment of facilities for laboratory testing, packaging and labelling, filling, formulation and, finally, active pharmaceutical ingredient manufacture, approximately US$40 million in total, had to be secured through loans and grants. According to the respondents in the qualitative survey, the principal benefit of the PPP has been the uninterrupted supply of vaccines and the ability to respond quickly to vaccine shortages. The main disadvantages appear to have been a slow and ineffectual establishment of a vaccine manufacturing centre and, initially, a limited ability to negotiate highly competitive vaccine prices.
Overall, it is concluded that a positive value-for-money has been achieved and the institute has been of significant public benefit. Relationships of this nature can be used to achieve public health goals, but need to be realistic about timeframes, costs and the limitations of relational governance in ensuring that complex programmatic outcomes are achieved. It is recommended that a more incremental approach, with clearer contractual goals, penalties and incentives, is adopted in attempting initiatives aimed at the localisation of manufacturing technology by leveraging public procurement.