One of the biggest challenges faced by African countries is meeting the demand for vaccination of their people in situations where health emergencies arise. A typical case is the inadequate COVID-19 vaccines on the continent. Africa has always depended hugely on other continents in meeting its healthcare need and there has not been serious consideration as a continent to developing a strategy to meeting this demand as quickly as possible.
These inadequacies necessitated the discussion on promoting domestic vaccine production, epidemic preparedness and upgrade of healthcare facilities to meet the future needs amidst a fast growing population. African Union (AU) and African Centre for Disease Control and Development (CDC) in consideration of these challenges, recently convened a virtual conference to discuss various subjects in line with the critical needs in the African health sector.
The conference, which was attended by several African heads of state, health, finance and trade ministers from across the continent, provided a platform for global financial institutions, foundations, pharmaceutical manufacturers, business leaders, and the general public to rub minds on the state of Africa’s vaccine manufacturing and meeting short-term COVID-19 needs and long term vaccine security, ways of partnering to transfer technology to accelerate vaccine manufacturing in Africa, intellectual property transfer, country incentives to encourage advancing vaccine manufacturing in Africa, financing and investment of manufacturing of vaccines in Africa, role of Africa’s private sector in advancing vaccines manufacturing in Africa, bilateral and multilateral partnerships for vaccine manufacturing in Africa, role of universities and research institutions in development of support research hubs and establishing mRNA (Messenger Ribonucleic Acid) vaccine manufacturing in Africa.
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The South African President and African Union Champion for COVID-19, Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa, in his opening remarks, at the start of the two-day virtual conference, said, “production of vaccines and access to vaccines is an absolute priority”. The African Development Bank (AfDB) President, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, represented at the conference by the Vice President, Private Sector, Infrastructure and Industrialization, Mr.Solomon Quaynor, noted that although Africa consumes approximately one-quarter of global vaccines by volume, it manufactures less than one per cent of its routine vaccines, with almost no outbreak vaccine manufacturing in place.
He further noted that the region lags behind in procuring vaccines amid a global scramble for the medicines among wealthier nations and so thus far, only around 2 per cent of the world’s vaccination against COVID-19 has taken place in Africa. Quaynor added that vaccine manufacturing management is complex and requires huge financial support, and reliable and affordable cost of energy.
The Deputy Director General, Department of Science and Technology National Treasury, South Africa, Mr. Mmboneni Muofhe, in his submission said, “research and development must be seen as an investment to attract funding of vaccine production”.
The key outcomes of the discussions are MOU signing between Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), and also collaboration agreement signing between Africa Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) and Africa Finance Corporation (AFC).