The leaders of the brown continent in the field of public health and immunization have called for the need to make Covid-19 vaccines available and secure for the population of the continent in a way that ensures the desired immunization rates achieved worldwide.
At the First International Conference on Public Health in Africa, which was held virtually from 14 to 16 December, the leaders agreed that “the only solution is to start transferring vaccine manufacturing technology and locating it in Africa.”
This call was preceded by an awareness of its necessity, when Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank, said: “Africa must not beg for vaccines, but we must produce them.”
Adesina accompanied a financing effort as it announced on March 27 a $ 3 billion investment to support local pharmaceutical companies in Africa to manufacture vaccines.
At current vaccination rates, the Kovacs facility’s target of covering 20% of the continent’s vaccine needs by 2022 will not be met.
And if the situation does not change from what it is, the continent will lose many lives in the coming periods, and more mutations may appear, which will complicate the situation, according to Richard Mihigo, coordinator of the World Health Organization’s immunization and vaccine development program. regional office in Africa.
The statistics and data presented by Mihijo revealed that Africa is facing a shortage of approximately 470 million vaccine doses in 2021, and is at the bottom of the world rankings in terms of the proportion of partially immunized with approx. 12%, compared to a global rate of 55%.
In terms of complete immunization of citizens, 6 countries are Seychelles, Mauritius, Morocco, Tunisia and Botswana, where the percentage exceeded 40% of the population of each country, while it was less than 10% of the population in 17 countries, and the number of fully immunized people did not reach 2%. Residents of 14 other countries.
Mihijo says, “When I look at the map, I find a completely green world, except for Central Africa, which is very red,” noting the high rates of immunization worldwide compared to Africa.
So far, only 6 African countries are trying to produce Covid-19 vaccines, namely Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, South Africa, Senegal and Nigeria, but production so far remains less than 1% of consumption, while the mainland has a quarter of consumption worldwide production of vaccines.
In an effort to rectify the situation, the US International Development Finance Corporation in South Africa, in collaboration with European partners, has announced a financing package of 600 million euros ($ 710 million) for Aspen Pharmacare.
Aspen has already produced millions of doses, and its imported vaccine material will have a packaging capacity of around 500 million doses of J&J vaccine by the end of 2022, and the Biovac Institute in South Africa has agreed to speed up the packaging process for the Pfizer vaccine. . from 2022 in Cape Town.
In Senegal, the government, with the support of the United States and Europe, is building a $ 200 million COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing facility with the Pasteur Foundation Institute in Dakar, and this facility will be the first on the continent to produce vaccines in parallel. . with packaging.
In July 2021, the Egyptian government announced the production of the first million doses of the Sinovac vaccine and began the establishment of the new Vaccera facility in 6th of October City, with a capacity that is expected to be one billion vaccines annually. reached, and through two agreements for the manufacture of pharmaceutical materials and the packaging and packaging of the Russian vaccine Sputnik 5, Egypt will soon join To Senegal to reduce Africa’s dependence on vaccine imports.
In another attempt, Pietro Terblanche, general manager of African Biosciences and Vaccines, found that the World Health Organization had established a mRNA vaccine technology transfer center, and the African Development Bank announced its commitment to two platforms for the transfer. of vaccine production technology.
The messenger RNA vaccine technology is characterized as being free of live virus, unlike most other vaccines, and it depends on genetic sequences, which makes it flexible in design.
Terblanche says: “RNA vaccine technology will play an effective role in achieving the strategic goals of vaccine manufacturing on the African continent.”
Three entities will work together to strengthen the messenger RNA vaccine manufacturing center, the first is Afrigen, which will establish a training center dedicated to training staff in technology, the second is BIOVAC, which is commercial manufacturing of the vaccines will do, and finally the South African Medical Research Council, which will expand the process With the competencies and expertise needed to locate the industry in the fields of genomics, immunology, vaccines and clinical trials.
“Africa’s capabilities to produce vaccines will be significantly different from what they were five months ago,” Terblanch stressed.
The predominant developments in the COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing landscape in Africa continue to focus on packaging expansion rather than manufacturing and technology transfer.
Africa’s ability to secure vaccines for a range of diseases will require sustained commitment from governments, regional coordination of the African Union and steady funding for research and development, Terblanche said.
This article was produced by the SciDev.Net Regional Office for the Middle East and North Africa