AFRICA – Africa imports 99% of its vaccines and the effects of the circumstance are baring a heavy burden on the communities on the continent, hence the continent is working on ramping up pharmaceutical production to producing at least 60% of vaccines by 2040.
Rwanda’s President, Paul Kagame, who was attending the G20 Summit in Rome as on behalf of NEPAD, the African Union Development Agency said that Africans represent nearly 18% of the world’s people, but less than 5% of Covid-19 vaccine doses have reached the continent.
He said closing the gap has three components requiring active commitment by the G20, as has already happened, and that there must be consistent supply of vaccines for low-income countries to meet the target of 70% vaccination by mid-2022.
President Kagame said that after a slow start, Covax deliveries have picked up, thanks to increased pledges from different countries, among them the United States, the European Union, and its member states, among others.
However, he noted, Africa must begin building manufacturing capacity for vaccines. “Africa imports 99% of its vaccines. By 2040, we aim to produce 60%,” he told fellow world leaders.
This week, Rwanda and Senegal concluded agreements with BioNTech to build end-to-end mRNA vaccine production facilities, starting in mid-2022. Technology and know-how will be transferred to build the capacity of local companies, and the doses produced will be distributed in Africa.
“This is an important milestone in which the European Union and the African Union are also playing a key role.,” Kagame said.
He insisted that there should also be continued strengthening of the World Health Organization and Africa CDC is critical, along with support for the new African Medicines Agency.
“We would also do well to implement the clear and actionable recommendations of the G20 High-Level Independent Panel on Pandemic Preparedness, co-chaired by Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Lawrence Summers, and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala,” he said.
This announcement comes shortly after BioNTech signed a deal with Rwanda and Senegal to put up a vaccine manufacturing plant which will run with the m-RNA technology.
BioNTech is not the only pharmaceutical giant looking to set up in Africa. Last month, Moderna ade known its intentions to put up a messenger RNA manufacturing plant in Africa to produce its Covid-19 vaccine and other jabs as the pharmaceutical industry fends off criticism it has not done enough to immunize the developing world.
The company said it would spend up to US$500m to build a state-of-the-art facility in the continent within two to four years with the goal of eventually producing up to 500 million doses of vaccine each year.
Some other companies have already started manufacturing in the continent through affiliate companies. Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine, a product of Sinovac Biotech, China, is being produced in Egypt. This was made possible by a deal signed in April between the drug maker and the Egyptian government.
Meanwhile, Egypt is ramping up production of the Sinovac coronavirus vaccine as it aims to become a hub for vaccine exports to Africa and protect its own population of more than 100 million from a fourth wave of infections.
The government is preparing new facilities that it says could produce several million vaccine doses daily, and is also in talks with an unspecified European vaccine producer.