AFRICA – Africa is working with the European Union and other partners to establish regional vaccine manufacturing hubs in South Africa, Senegal and Rwanda.
Nigeria is also under consideration for the program, World Trade Organization (WTO) Director General, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has said.
“We have now seen that over-centralization of vaccine production capacity is incompatible with equitable access in a crisis situation,” Okonjo-Iweala said on Monday during a virtual meeting.
Regional production hubs, in tandem with open supply chains, will offer a more promising path to preparedness for future health crisis in the continent.
Africa is facing a major shortage of coronavirus jabs. So far 70.13% of vaccine supply has been used up, only facilitating the vaccination of 0.79% of population.
Recently the World Health Organization said it will set up a hub in South Africa to give companies from poor and middle-income countries the know-how and licenses to produce COVID-19 vaccines.
The “tech transfer hub” shall make it possible for African companies to begin manufacturing mRNA vaccines, in as little as nine to 12 months, the WHO said.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus made the announcement aimed at boosting access to vaccines across the African continent, where coronavirus infections and deaths increased by almost 40 percent over the past week.
“Today I am delighted to announce that WHO is in discussions with a consortium of companies and institutions to establish a technology transfer hub in South Africa,” Tedros said during a press briefing in Geneva on Monday.
South Africa’s Biovac Institute, which has a partnership with France, has partnered with Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines, a network of universities, and the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to establish Africa’s first Covid messenger RNA vaccine technology transfer hub.
The World Health Organization in April issued a call for Expression of Interest to establish such hubs to scale-up production and access to Covid-19 vaccines.
Meanwhile, it is reported that Senegal could begin producing COVID-19 vaccines next year under an agreement with Belgian biotech group Univercells aimed at boosting Africa’s drug-manufacturing ambitions.
Senegal’s Institut Pasteur is the only facility in Africa currently producing a vaccine, a yellow fever shot, that is pre-qualified by the World Health Organization, which requires manufacturers to meet strict international standards.
President Paul Kagame of Rwanda has often, in the recent past, made the case for the production of vaccines in Africa, citing that the latter would get the continent out of the current health crisis which has also had social economic effects on the population of Africa.
Recently, his country was selected as home ground to the Tokyo Olympics vaccination hub, for participants who may not have access to the vaccine in their home countries.
The push to manufacture vaccines in Africa goes far and wide. In one of his addresses, CDC director John Nkengasong, said he would like to see the Africa producing more than half of the vaccines it consumes within 20 years, up from 1% today.
At the same time, the African vaccine market is expected to grow significantly, from $1.3bn a year today to between $2.3bn and $5.4bn by 2030, according to McKinsey.