Developing Africa’s vaccine-manufacturing capability is a must

The novel Coronavirus pandemic has continued to be the leading public health challenges; and the global community is experiencing serious health, social and economic challenges.

In fact, countries across the globe are implementing different controlling strategies to restrain the spread of the pandemic and control the number of people infected by the virus. However, the virus has been spreading rapidly in an alarming rate across the globe.

The threat, for most of developing countries, is more devastating than developed ones owing to formers’ underdeveloped health systems; limitation in manufacturing vaccinations, aside from the unpredictable patterns and the fast spreading nature of the virus, plus vaccines’ inequity that has been witnessed openly across the continent.

Ethiopia is among the countries where the virus has been spreading speedily. In point of fact, from the beginning, the government has been undertaking various activities to curtail the spread of the pandemic and minimize the burden of the pandemic. Ranging from declaring state of emergency to importing COVID-19 medical kits and COVID-19 vaccines, it has taken several measures.

Currently, the country is working to build a better future for the people through developing its capacity and manufacturing vaccines at home.

As Ministry of Health has recently disclosed, preparations are underway to produce the COVID-19 vaccine in Ethiopia.

Health Minister Dr. Lia Tadesse told The that the outbreak of COVID-19 has had a negative effect on the health sector of the nation and brought further social and economic damage to the country, the continent, and the world at large.

Ethiopia, since the outbreak, has been implementing and enforcing various prevention and control measures to minimize the negative effects of the pandemic. The country has been also receiving different types of vaccines from donor countries.

Apart from getting vaccines, currently, the government of Ethiopia is working with international organizations, and the African Union (AU) to increase funding for the COVID-19 vaccine, she explained.

According to Lia, there has been a lot of pressure on the health sector since the outbreak of the pandemic; nevertheless, much has been done to improve the country’s health system while reducing the negative impact of the pandemic on the health sector.

Hence, efforts have been made to reorganize the health facilities, mobilize and increase resources, increase budgets, improve health systems, strengthen laboratory capacity, advance patient care, and increase the capacity of oxygen production of the country, she added.

Furthermore, the necessary steps are met to produce pharmaceutical equipment, especially sanitizer, masks, gloves, protective equipment, and so on, which are important to pave the way to producing vaccines in Ethiopia.

Concurrent to the efforts exerted to prevent the pandemic, the Ministry, in collaboration with the African Union, the African Union Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and partners, has started preparation to produce the vaccine at home.

The AU member states are working together as a continent instead of producing the vaccine individually, adding to that Ethiopia is actively participating in the initiative, recognizing the importance of this initiative as a country and a continent, she noted.

At the same time, a lot of work is being done to make the vaccine available locally because Ethiopia is a big and strategic country to Africa.

Therefore, market Feasibility studies are underway, discussions and experiences sharing with partner countries and organizations have been held. Further, detailed identification of activities are carried out to launch the production. Upon completion of this detailed study, the country would begin production of the vaccines, she indicated.

At the 35th African Union session, concluded last Sunday, the issue of COVID-19 pandemic and unavailability of sufficient vaccines for most Africans was discussed thoroughly.

According to AU Commission Chairperson, Moussa Faki Mahamat, Africa is among the continents hit hard by COVID-19. Raising his concern about unavailability of vaccine for most Africans, the Chairperson asked the African leaders to support the African Centers for Disease Control.

Moussa Faki informed that, the Assembly that the Africa CDC and the African Medicines Agency (AMA) will play leading roles in promoting Africa’s public health strategy and leading the implementation of the AU strategy of resistance and future triumph against the pandemic and other public health issues.

“The acquisition of vaccines and their manufacture in Africa will be the high points of the strategy.” Mr. Faki noted that COVID-19 pandemic led to a contraction in growth of 2.1 percent in 2020 and an increase in the debt ratio by 10 points of GDP, necessitating a continental strategy that will focus on the identification of innovative sources of financing, debt cancellation and reducing the harmful effects of the pandemic on economies.

In relation to vaccines production in Africa, Africa CDC Director Dr. John Nkengasong said (January 6, 2022), that COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing is expected to ramp up this year in Africa, with many hoping the move will help ameliorate the vaccine inequity that has left few people on the continent with access to inoculations even as those in high-income countries get booster shots. By the end of 2022, “we will begin to see a change in the availability of vaccines on the continent,” he said optimistically.

Africans should buckle up efforts to produce the vaccine because the continent is home to 1.2 billion population and that is projected to be 2.4 billion in 30 years. The continent where one in four people in the world will be African continues to import 99 percent of its vaccines? asked John Nkengasong.

Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa, has also said, “We just cannot continue to rely on vaccines that are made outside of Africa, because they never come.”



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