Africa CDC seeks ‘continental capacity’ to produce its own coronavirus vaccines

The director of the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on March 11 said the continent needs to develop the capacity to produce its own coronavirus vaccines. According to AP, Africa is behind in its efforts to immunize 60% of its 1.3 billion people as quickly as possible. Several African countries have started to kick in, but experts said the continent needs much larger dose volumes for massive campaigns to immunize more than half of the region’s population.

African countries receive vaccines from the international COVAX initiative and from donors such as India, China and Russia. Health experts said the continent’s dependence on imported vaccines could be a hindrance to the vaccination campaign. Previously, Africa set a target of vaccinating 60% of its population by the end of this year; however, now the target is set for one year later, i.e. by the end of 2022.

It is important for Africa to have ‘vaccine safety’

At a press briefing, African CDC director Dr John Nkengasong said at least five African countries, including South Africa, Senegal, Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt, appear have the capacity to produce vaccines. Nkengasong added that a meeting is scheduled for April 12 between the African Union and external partners to create a “road map” to strengthen African capacity to eventually produce the COVID-19 vaccine. He said that it is so important for the continent to have vaccine safety.

Birgitte Markussen, head of the European Union’s delegation to the African Union, said in a separate statement that efforts would be made to support local production of the vaccine. She said solidarity was important to ensure that no one was left behind in global efforts to stop the pandemic. In addition, Markussen added that as more and more doses continue to be delivered, the real task will be to ensure the rapid deployment of vaccines and associated supplies of equipment under the right conditions, the right quantities and also in the right places.

Meanwhile, Nkengasong informed that at least 22 out of 54 African countries have received COVID-19 vaccines as part of the COVAX initiative to ensure low and middle income countries receive vaccines. He said shipments range from a few thousand doses to millions sent to countries ranging from Nigeria to Uganda. Additionally, the CDC director said the vaccine arrivals in recent days have left him happy and feeling “there is light at the end of the tunnel”.

(Image: AP)