AU moves to have five vaccine-making centres on continent

The African Union declared on Tuesday that an alliance would be established to produce vaccines at five research centers to be developed on the continent over the next 15 years. 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Africa is on the “sidelines” of the Covid-19 vaccination campaign, with just 2% of the global total receiving vaccines due to availability, financing, and personnel shortages. 

The AU and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), on the other hand, want to improve that. 

CEPI, which works with the public-private partnership Gavi and the WHO to run the multinational Covax vaccine-sharing network, has agreed to support African vaccine research and development as well as production. 

According to John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an AU organisation, the five centers will be based in the north, south, east, west, and center of Africa over the next 10-15 years. 

The aim is to manufacture 60 percent of all vaccines used on the continent locally within 20 years, compared to one percent today.

“We are aware that it is a challenge,” said Nkengasong after a two-day virtual meeting.

However, he said, “If Africa does not plan to address its vaccine security needs today, then we are absolutely setting ourselves for failure.”

“Together we can strengthen Africa’s capacity to prevent, detect and respond to emerging and re-emerging infectious threats” said Richard Hatchett, CEO of CEPI, a public-private collaboration established to try and prevent potential epidemics. 

“By building regional resilience and strengthening health security on the continent we can mitigate the disproportionate health and economic impacts that epidemic infectious diseases can have on populations in low and middle-income countries.”

Current AU president Felix Tshisekedi noted, “Sufficient funds will be required, legislative harmonisation in Africa and incentives.”

The Africa Export-Import Bank and the Africa Finance Corporation also signed the memorandum of understanding on Tuesday.

Tshisekedi urged the African diaspora around the world “to help strengthen the medicine and vaccine production capacities in Africa”.

The project “will not just fight against Covid-19 but see the establishment of vaccine production for known illnesses and prepare for future epidemics and pandemics,” said the president of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

According to Nation Africa, Africa has so far been the least affected continent by the pandemic, with 4.3 million outbreaks and 114,000 deaths in a population of 1.2 billion people.

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