The African Union has said that by 2040, African countries would produce at least 60 per cent of the vaccines they use as opposed to the one per cent manufactured in the continent currently.
In a communique issued by the Partnerships for African Vaccine Manufacturing (PAVM) Task Force and made available to journalists, the union stated that developing local vaccine manufacturing in Africa would both answer a health security imperative and bring benefits in terms of improved livelihoods and economies.
It noted that though a complex undertaking and not without risk, the situation presents a unique opportunity for action and unprecedented support from governments across the continent, as well as partnership with institutions across Africa and the globe as well as the private sector.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for increased vaccine security and self-reliance. Expanding vaccine manufacturing in Africa requires multiple groups of stakeholders to step forward in order to endorse or perform the various roles required to unlock this opportunity.
“If these essential conditions are met, it may indeed be possible to establish a sustainable vaccine development and manufacturing ecosystem and thus ensure Africa has timely access to the vaccines it needs to protect and secure public health.
“This is a multi-year effort. We have taken the first steps with the expression of a clear ambition for the continent for 2040, as well as articulating the potential intermediary stages on that journey and defining clear near-term priorities to get under way,” the AU noted.
It noted that some steps were already being taken, stressing the need to take advantage of current momentum, while securing long-term political commitment, acceleration of existing continental efforts such as African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and the African Medicine Agency (AMA) to help overcome regulatory and infrastructure barriers;
The communique stated that technology transfer will be key to unlocking vaccine manufacturing while Africa builds its R&D capabilities, insisting that Intellectual Property (IP) is not always the most significant barrier and can be unlocked with the right enabling environment.
“Funders are eager to support; manufacturers need additional support with project preparation; Africa has talent; both capability building and attracting the return of the diaspora will be important; concerted efforts to achieve demand certainty are critical to making the opportunity attractive to manufacturers,” the organisation stressed.
It added: “The PAVM will support the nurture of regional vaccine manufacturing industry in Africa with a view to increasing its capacity to meet local demand from its current level of 1 per cent to 60 per cent by 2040.
“In order to do this, the task force will support partnerships in the creation of an environment fully conducive to the emergence of a thriving private sector manufacturing base.
“It will also steward a continental strategy that efficiently maintains both scale and cost-competitiveness and avoids vaccine nationalism when future demand surges emerge across part or all of the continent.”
The AU said that while the outcome of the task force’s work will be the growth of the continental industry and progress towards the 60 per cent target, its work will principally consist of the operationalisation of the solutions identified for strengthening enablers.
The task force will comprise leaders of key African organisations and will be led by the Africa Centre for Disease Control (CDC).
After several weeks of initial work-stream planning, the Africa CDC and the task force are expected to integrate each works-tream’s work plan into the shared continental strategy and framework for action.