The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) has canvassed the need to scale up the domestic production of COVID-19 vaccines in Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana, Egypt and morocco.
UNECA equally emphasised the need “to increase vaccine supply chains in Africa and advance equitable access to vaccines across the continent.”
The Director of the African Centre for Statistics at the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Oliver Chinganya made the call at a recent webinar held under the theme, “Equitable access to the COVID-19 vaccines in Africa (ECOVA).”
ECOVA is a collaborative project between the African Health Economics and Policy Association (AfHEA), the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) and the ECA, funded by the International Development and Research Centre (IDRC).
At the virtual meeting, Chinganya said the Covid-19 had exposed our continent’s pre-existing development deficits, but also presented opportunities for an economic and social resilient recovery, which he said, would reinforce regional integration, coordination and partnership.
He said: “Africa needs to learn lessons from other parts of the world to increase vaccine supply chains, strengthen health infrastructure, and enhance access to finance and credible communication, including vaccine campaigns.
He further noted that the announcement of local manufacturing expansion in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, as witnessed in South Africa, Nigeria, Morocco, Ghana and Egypt, demonstrated the capacity and feasibility of vaccine manufacturing in Africa.
“Vaccine manufacturing in Africa can be enhanced by the establishment of technology hubs, research and development facilities, targeted education intervention to address skills deficit, policy formulation and implements to harmonize regulatory framework provides feasible framework that can be tailor-made to Africa’s specificities.”
Also, at the virtual meeting, Vaccine Programme Coordinator at the Africa CDC, Ezinne Onwuekwe shared a presentation on the status of Covid-19 vaccinations in Africa, reporting that 366 million people on the continent are fully vaccinated, 1.035 billion doses have been procured with 806 million doses administered.
Onwuekwe noted that COVAX “has procured, obtained and donated 63% of vaccines we have on the continent.”
Senior Medical Officer at PATH and Associate Professor at the University of Washington, Aziza Mwisongo, provided insights into where Africa stands with vaccine equality and production.
Mwisongo said: “There is no immediate readiness to repurpose facilities for large-scale production through partnerships.
“Therefore, it is important that African vaccine manufacturers establish supply networks to export to markets on the continent and elsewhere.
“Africa vaccinating Africa is necessary, and possible because of the continent’s impressive health and science community that is making an invaluable contribution to global health – most recently, discovering and sequencing the Omicron variant.”
A Consultant Community Physician, Prof. Benjamin Uzochukwu underscored the challenge of accepting vaccines produced in Africa.
Uzochukwu, a professor at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, said: there must be interventions from civil society organizations and the media to sensitise the populace on the quality of our vaccines. We must expand this knowledge to ensure a successful rollout of local vaccines and their consumption.
“To ensure large-scale production of vaccines on the continent, Africa must reduce its dependence on donors, further build its research capacity, scale-up funding and show commitment and support to buy vaccines manufactured in Africa.
Executive Director of the AfHEA and moderator of the session. John Ataguba, noted it was the first in a series of webinars on the topic of ramping up vaccine production on the continent.