Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, has called on African leaders to double their efforts in their bid to create a manufacturing hub for the production of vaccines to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking as the co-moderator at the ongoing virtual seminar on ‘Africa’s Vaccine Manufacturing for Health and Security’, she outlined key elements to drive manufacturing such as access to finance, regulatory systems strengthening and harmonisation, demand and volume certainty and solidarity.
In her opening remarks at the conference, the Honourable Minister said Nigeria has been working round the clock on the type and quantity of COVID-19 vaccines to procure and the kind of resources that would be required for that.
Stakeholders and various state representatives, ministers and executives of African health and finance institutions called for concerted efforts for the manufacturing and development of the continent’s own COVID-19 vaccines and other vital vaccines in the midst of the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic.
It was made know that the proposed new public health order calls for a cross -continental and global collaboration cooperation and coordination based on the following pillars: Strengthened public health institutions, strengthened public health workforce, expanded and strengthened African manufacturing of vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics and respectful action-oriented partnerships.
The discussions were the focus at the two-day virtual conference in which participants voiced their concerns, insights and overall possible solutions to the COVID-19 infection numbers that shot up by the day.
Speaking during the opening of the conference on Monday March 12, Dr. John Nkengasong, Director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), revealed that Africa needs 1.3 billion doses of vaccines annually on the continent, and it represents 25 percent of the global demand. Africa’s vaccine manufacturing capacity, he said, is very low as 99 percent of doses are imported, and only one percent (about 12 million) doses are manufactured in Africa.
His Excellency, Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, noted that the COVAX mechanism would be able to meet 20 percent of the continent’s need, yet more infections are stemming up. He revealed that in Sub-Saharan Africa, more than 90 percent of infections are found in people less than 50 years and more than 80 percent of infections are asymptomatic, “a reminder that Africa requires a lot of vaccines.”
“The production of vaccines and access to vaccines is an absolute necessity for our continent. It is also important to emphasise the production and availability of vaccines in Africa should be a priority. This can only be possible with a substantial effort in Africa that we are encouraging,” Mahamat said.
Rwanda’s Paul Kagame noted that the vaccine equity could not be guaranteed by good will alone, saying that Africa needs to expand production capacity for vaccines and other essential medical products. He also suggested that to increase domestic health financing, Africa should forge strategic public private partnerships for vaccine manufacturing in the continent.
His Excellency Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa, noted that the global disparities in wealth and capabilities to develop, produce and have access to vaccines is hampering efforts by middle and low income countries to make vaccines available to their populations.
“The challenge that many African countries face is that the supply of vaccines is currently too slow to meet our needs. Our immediate task, therefore, is to secure immediate vaccine doses for African countries through the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT), which has made valuable progress through its engagement with vaccine manufacturers,” Ramaphosa said.
This effort, he added, is supported by other initiatives to manufacture vaccines on the continent where possible and in collaboration with current developers and manufacturers.
“The Aspen facility in South Africa, for example, will make some 220 million doses available following the AVATT agreement with Johnson and Johnson.
Uganda’s Minister of Health, Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng, remarked: “Drug and vaccine development requires extensive investments in infrastructure for biomedical research and discovery, good manufacturing practice, certified facilities for prototype and product manufacture, frameworks for preclinical and clinical trials, and marketing and commercialisation.”