Africa demands local production of vaccines

More funds from World Bank

28 July 2021 | Economics

If you want a long-term future with us now, you produce from Africa. - Strive Masiyiwa, Coronavirus envoy: AU

Global pharmaceutical firms should license production of Covid-19 vaccines in Africa rather than just do piecemeal contract deals, an African Union special envoy has said.

By yesterday, the continent's cumulative confirmed Covid-19 cases exceeded 4.97 million, of which 113 034 resulted in death, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Ourworldindata.org stated that by 25 July, about 61 million doses of vaccines – including multiple doses per person – were administered in Africa out of a population of about 1.3 billion.

Namibia's ministry of health and social services reported cumulative Covid-19 cases of 116 964 on 25 July and a total of 2 834 of Covid-19 and Covid-19 related deaths. Only 45 078 people were fully vaccinated, only 6% of the target of the 750 520 by the end of September which health minister Kalumbi Shangula announced on 18 July. Government's target is to fully vaccinate 1 501 042 by January 2022 to achieve herd immunity of at least 60%. By Sunday, only about 3% of this target was achieved.



'RESTRICTIVE'

AU coronavirus envoy Strive Masiyiwa last week spoke after Pfizer and BioNTech announced a “fill and finish” deal with South Africa's Biovac Institute under which it will carry out the final stages of vaccine manufacturing where the product is processed and put into vials.

Pfizer and BioNTech will handle drug substance production at their facilities in Europe. Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has called the arrangement “restrictive” and said much more is needed to support vaccine independence in Africa.

“We want to make clear to all suppliers ... if you want a long-term future with us now, you produce from Africa,” Masiyiwa said.

Many African nations rely on global vaccine sharing scheme Covax or do­nations from countries like China and India.

“For regions left behind in the vaccine race to be self- sufficient, they need access to all of the components of vaccine production,” said Lara Dovifat, manager at MSF's access campaign, which is seeking equitable vaccine access.



'LOOKING BEYOND CRISIS'

Matshidiso Moeti, the head of the WHO in Africa, called for local production of vaccines so Africa can tackle future outbreaks.

“We are looking beyond this crisis,” she told a news conference.

Johnson & Johnson, whose vaccine is administered through a single shot, also has a “fill and finish” deal with South Africa's Aspen Pharmacare.

J&J is on track to supply members of the African Union with 400 million vaccine doses by September next year, Masiyiwa said.

Around six million doses will be delivered to 27 nations that have paid their share through the end of August, Masiyiwa said, with another 18 finalising loans from the World Bank and other global lenders before they make payment.

Deliveries will rise to an average of 10 million a month from September, increasing to 20 million in January until the order is fulfilled by September next year.

The balance of Africa's vaccine requirements will come from donors including COVAX, Masiyiwa said, adding that local production is the real answer.

“If you want land we will give you. If you want to own everything 100%, we don't mind, just produce from the African continent,” he told the firms.



NEW 'MONEY'

A new World Bank financing mechanism will allow developing countries to purchase Covid-19 vaccines collectively through the Covax facility, it was announced Monday.

Covax was set up to ensure 92 developing territories, including Namibia, could access coronavirus vaccines to fight the pandemic, with the cost covered by donors.

The new mechanism will allow those countries to buy additional doses on top of the subsidised ones they will already receive via Covax.

Using money from the World Bank and other development banks, the facility says it will make advanced purchases from vaccine manufacturers based on ­aggregated demand across countries.

The financing mechanism builds on the existing Covax cost-sharing arrangement which aims to provide 430 million additional doses, or enough doses to fully vaccinate 250 million people, for delivery between late 2021 and mid-2022 for the 92 countries.

Those doses could be purchased through new financing arrangement.

Countries should also have some ­flexibility in selecting to buy particular vaccines that align with their preferences.

– Own report and Nampa/Reuters/AFP