WAHO spearheads engagement with potential ECOWAS vaccine manufacturers
Prof. Stanley Okolo, the Director-General of the West African Health Organisation (WAHO), on Tuesday, reaffirmed the commitment of his outfit to support the rapid and sustainable establishment of a robust vaccine production capacity in the Region.
He said presently, only one per cent of vaccines used in Africa were produced locally, but the vision was to achieve a 60 per cent increase by the year 2024, stressing that the continent had all the rudiments and building blocks to make this happen.
Prof. Okolo gave the affirmation when he opened a two-day a high-level meeting with vaccines manufacturers in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) region, which was being organised in Accra in collaboration with the Africa Center for Disease Control (CDC).
He said given the urgency in the Region and the vulnerability of the Community’s population to the COVID-19 pandemic and other diseases, the ECOWAS Commission and WAHO under the ECOWAS Authorities of Heads of States and Government wished to facilitate efforts to boost local vaccines manufacturing, and other medical supplies in the Sub-region.
“However, we cannot achieve this without the needed improved infrastructure and human resource capacity,” he said.
The COVID-19 pandemic had shown that low and middle-income countries have had to rely mostly on donations of vaccines from rich nations, however, research had shown that building continental and regional manufacturing capabilities would contribute to pandemic preparedness and strengthen the response to feature outbreaks, he said.
Prof. Okolo explained that the meeting was to create among other things, a framework for collaboration, information exchange, and to develop structures for vaccine producers in the West African region to discuss how to support each other to build the regional hub for vaccines production.
The discussions with the ECOWAS potential vaccine manufacturers and stakeholders would also pertain to how the individual manufacturers would identify particular vaccines of interest to produce, the different level of building scientific capacity of relevance on vaccine development and other vaccine related activities.
It would involve issues of the engagement of contract clinical research organisations and technology platforms of high yield, high quality product using the most cost-effective methodologies available, as well as clinical trial centres, the scale-up of the development of experts in the region, and to strengthen the supply, distribution channels and cold chain systems.
Prof. Okolo said “the objective of the meeting is to build a strong collaboration between these manufactures and not to create competition among them”.
He later gave some statistics showing that in ECOWAS, the COVID-19 cases continued for the past two years, with 837,442 cases which represented 7.3 per cent of Africa’s share of the pandemic, with a death toll of about 11,348, (4.5 per cent), and case fatality rate of 1.4 per cent as of May 01, 2022.
Again about 179,122,060 vaccine doses had been received across the region and 92,947,620 doses administered, with a total record of only 16 per cent fully vaccinated per 100 people.
He said to enable the region reach about 70 per cent of vaccination coverage, 377,525,150 additional doses of vaccines would be needed taking into consideration the 179,122,060 doses received so far from COVAX and other donations and appealed to the manufacturers to openly share their knowledge and expertise and effectively collaborate with each other to achieve the expected breakthrough in vaccine manufacturing in Africa.
Professor Kwabena Frimpong Boateng, the Chairman of the Presidential Vaccines Committee, said Ghana was working closely with Rwanda and Senegal in the development of the COVID-19 vaccines, which was expected soon in the country for packaging and distribution for commercial use by 2024.
He gave some highlights of Ghana’s progress regarding its vaccine development efforts, citing the expected completion of the National Vaccines Institute infrastructure by the third quarter of 2022, to coordinate the development and manufacturing of vaccines.
Others include strengthening collaboration between existing research capacity enhancement of the Food and Drugs Authority to attain International Standard Organisation Level Four of its laboratory performance, and the enhancement of human resource capacity base for research, management of manufacturing plants as well as stakeholder engagements for the effective support of government efforts.