To ensure fair and equitable access to vaccines, the Africa Union, through the Coalition for Dialogue on Africa, (CoDA) is set to begin the process of vaccine production and distribution within the continent.
The union said this initiative would change the narrative of Africa’s dependence on foreign countries for vaccine development and supplies.
The Executive Director of CoDA, Souad Aden-Osman, made this known on Saturday, at a press briefing in Benin, Edo state capital.
The briefing was held ahead of the launch of the Independent Task Team on Equitable & Universal Access to Vaccines and Vaccination in Africa which is scheduled to take place at the Igbinedion University Teaching Hospital (IUTH) in Okada Town, Edo State on Monday.
Ms Osman said access to vaccines by African countries has been limited because of the almost total dependence on foreign countries for their human vaccine supplies.
She said it is pertinent for the region to develop its vaccines and reduce expectations from foreign countries.
“Africa should come up with its own solution and stop being at the receiving end of everything. We seem to be consumers of every idea, concepts, definitions, medications, vaccine, everything.
“So, anyone out there can bring something and it will be considered to be of a good standard for African consumption,” she said.
Osman said the international community does not have to take responsibility for every happenings in the African region.
She said Africa has the capacity to take its destiny into its own hands and that CoDA is ready to explore every possible option to achieve the aim.
Funding has been identified as a major obstacle preventing African countries from producing their vaccines and other medical supplies.
Medical scientists in Africa often struggle to get funding, with the continent’s expenditure on research and development at 0.5 per cent of GDP, lagging behind the global average of 2.2 per cent.
As a result, its healthcare systems are overly dependent on countries in other continents for new drugs and vaccines.
Local pharmaceutical companies are also focused on manufacturing generic drugs. It usually takes many months, and sometimes several years, after a new drug or treatment is approved before it is accessible in Africa.
The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic and urgent needs for vaccines further portrays the damaging effects of relying on foreign countries for supplies.
Many Africa countries including Nigeria are currently depending on COVID-19 vaccines through the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Assess Facility (COVAX) for its citizens. COVAX is a UN-backed effort that promises access to vaccines for up to 20 per cent of participating countries’ population.
Nigeria has already received 3.92 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines through the facility and additional 3.92 million doses is expected by August 2021.
Private sector involvement
In his remarks, the President of the Manufacturing Association of Nigeria, Ahmed Mansur, said until the private sector is put at the centre of vaccine production and distribution, the region will never get out of the woods.
Mr Mansur said the initiative provides a platform for the involvement of the African private sector in the development, manufacturing, and distribution of vaccines in the region and a connection between African policymakers and relevant stakeholders on the issue of vaccines and vaccination.
He noted that Africa might be in serious trouble if it does not find a way of improving the supply of not just vaccines but other medical facilities and basic medicines in an equitable manner.
“The reason is that Africa has tended to rely and depend on other nations and other regions even for the most basic of inputs,” he said.
A member of the coalition, Ken Ayere, said the objective of the task team is to support the African Union in its efforts to enable the participation of African private sector and civil society, through established African Union policy instruments, in generating demand for and enabling manufacturing and distribution of essential vaccines on the continent.
The task team will map existing continental and regional strategies, policies, and frameworks on essential vaccines and vaccinations in Africa to identify current challenges and gaps.
Mr Ayere said; “Engage relevant stakeholders (e.g. public and private sector, academia, civil society, African philanthropists, etc.) on the development of strategies in support of indigenous manufacturing of essential vaccines for the African continent.
“Recommend financing and other innovative investments required to support indigenous vaccine manufacturing and facilitate equitable and universal access to essential vaccines and vaccinations across Africa.
“Contribute to the development of technical and policy papers in support of indigenous manufacturing of essential vaccines and oversee their dissemination.
“Foster partnerships on research of essential candidate vaccine targets that will inform manufacturing processes aimed at increasing access to vaccines and vaccinations across Africa, such as the African Health Business, African Research Universities Alliance, and Igbinedion University Teaching Hospital.”.
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