Africa steps up vaccine development efforts as CoDA and IUO sign historic agreement

Ms Souad Aden-Osman of CoDA and Prof Godwin Nsokhare Bazuaye, Chief Medical Director, IUTH after the signing.

Right in the heartbeat of Okada, in the auditorium of the Igbinedion University, Okada (IUO), a historic act took place. The Coalition on Dialogue in Africa (CoDA) and IOU signed an agreement to develop and produce vaccines in Africa and to champion equitable access to vaccines and vaccinations in Africa Monday June 21, 2021.

Africa like other continents has been hit and affected both in the short and long term by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). While the rest of the world, particularly the West, has vaccinated large numbers of its populations, Africa has received just about 2 per cent of the total vaccinations in the world.

And so far, no African country is developing vaccines. All the COVID-19 vaccines coming to Africa are produced in the West. This decision is therefore a bold step by the continent. At the event, the CoDA Independent Task Team on the development of vaccines and equitable, universal access to essential vaccines and vaccinations in Africa was also launched.

“Africa can’t continue to rely and depend on the benevolence of the countries for it’s vaccines,” Prof. Arthur Mutambara, former deputy Prime Minister of Zimbabwe, during a panel discussion Sunday. He urged a Pan-African strategy, regional and continental approach to addressing Africa’s vaccine needs.

“If we want to see something different, we must do things differently,” said Ms. Souad Aden-Osman, the Executive Director of CoDA. She indicated that the initiative was by non-state actors.

“Let’s do it without going the usual way,” she said.

In a speech read on his behalf by Abdulaye Bathily, former special representative of the UN Secretary-General for Central Africa, Olusegun Obasanjo, former Nigerian President, said the launch will be the beginning of a vaccine development and manufacture in Africa.

“Africa’s main challenge is not the lack of funds of resources, but the inability to harness local resources to solve our local problems,” he said.

Obasanjo decried the situation of braindrain in Africa. He said the talents in the continent are being used elsewhere. “They use their intellect to serve the needs of other continents, and most times without being duly credited or acknowledged for their intellectual investments, while our health systems are underdeveloped,” he said, calling on African countries to reverse the situation.

In his speech delivered via a video link, Prof. Benedict Oramah, President and Chairman, Board of Trustees, Afreximbank and Chairman, Board of Trustees for the African Union COVID-19 Response Fund, said while the pandemic has been tragic, it is also an opportunity for Africa to take its destiny into its own hands. He described the AfreximBank’s approval $2 billion to support the acquisition of COVID-19 vaccines for African countries as a “game-changer”.

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi, in Okada, Nigeria

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