New Partnership To Boost Africa’s Vaccine Research, Development And Manufacturing

A new partnership between Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations(CEPI), Africa CDC and the African Union Commission to enhance vaccine research, development and manufacturing in Africa has been hailed as “critical” to enable countries to take ownership of their national health security.

Following a two day African Vaccine Manufacturing Virtual Conference held earlier this week, the CEPI and AUC announced an agreement that will ultimately see the strengthening of the COVID-19 pandemic and outbreak preparedness on the continent, build on key lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic and leverage the successes recorded by the procurement and distribution of vaccines through COVAX and African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT).

The agreement was one of the major highlights of the conference that featured deliberations on various key aspects of vaccine manufacturing in Africa. It was concretised with a memorandum of understanding that was signed by all three institutions.

The partners said they would also invest in vaccine R&D innovations to enable faster and easier production of vaccines in Africa; invest in capacity building and training to foster the development of local expertise needed to boost vaccine R&D and manufacturing in Africa; strengthen institutions that enhance enabling science needed for vaccine development – for example, through investments in regional laboratory and research hubs across Africa – and build partnerships that enable the sustainable expansion of vaccine manufacturing in Africa.

Dr John Nkengasong, Director of the Africa CDC, said the partnership was critical for Africa to achieve its lofty local vaccine manufacturing goals. “Trusted partnership will be critical in advancing the vaccine manufacturing agenda on the continent. The partnership with CEPI symbolises cooperation and collaboration to help respond to infectious disease threats and ensure Africa’s health security,” Nkengasong said.

Importantly, the initiative will help strengthen Africa’s capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to emerging and re-emerging infectious threats, according to Richard Hatchett, CEO of CEPI. “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,” Hatchett said.

Health Policy Watch on Monday reported a number of speakers including Abderrahmane Maaroufi, Director of Morocco’s National Public Health Institute, recommending that Africa prioritise the development of vaccines for emerging diseases including Ebola, Lassa fever and Rift Valley Fever (RVF). This approach is in line with CEPI’s vaccine pipelines as it has candidate vaccines for these three diseases.

Early this year, a CEPI-funded vaccine programme kicked off the first clinical trial of a Lassa fever vaccine candidate to be conducted in West Africa, where the virus is endemic. CEPI also has two RVF vaccine candidates in its portfolio.

Trusted Partnerships are Critical in Building Africa’s Vaccine Manufacturing Agenda

Throughout the conference, African leaders and experts provided indications that lessons learnt from Africans countries having to look on as the developed countries immunise their citizens, should spur actions that will ensure that the continent is better prepared for the next pandemics.

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa said that despite Africa’s delayed access to COVID-19 vaccines, the continent has shown that its capabilities cannot be overlooked, even as its leaders are demonstrating greater political commitments towards prioritising people’s wellbeing on the continent.

“Throughout this pandemic, Africa has demonstrated it has substantial and extensive capabilities as well as resources and skills to address the challenges that have given rise to the pandemic. Africa’s response has shown the depth of scientific expertise on the continent and has provided opportunities for unprecedented scientific collaborations,” Ramaphosa said.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa

Ramaphosa said Africa, in the medium term, needed to expand available capabilities into regional hubs that serve the entire continent.
“We also need to forge sustainable partnerships with entities in both developed and developed worlds. Partners in various countries could offer technological expertise, financing and investments. Countries such as India and Brazil could provide guidance on how they developed their own generic pharmaceutical industries,” President Ramaphosa added.

The pandemic has however shown that vaccine equity cannot be guaranteed by goodwill alone, said Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame, further urging the continent to expand production capacity for vaccines and other essential medical products.

“Vaccine production goes hand-in-hand with increased investment in health systems as well as building an efficient and autonomous African CDC. Rwanda is ready to play a role in the effort together with other member states and partners,” he said.

President Paul Kagame of Rwanda

For Felix Tshiseked, President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the emphasis was on the need for Africa to achieve vaccine, diagnostic and therapeutic security.

In his closing remarks, Nkengasong urged African governments and its partners to” act now, act collectively but act differently”. “Trusted partnerships will be critical in building Africa’s vaccine manufacturing agenda,” he said, adding that it would take greater collaboration for Africa to overcome its challenge of currently only meeting only 1% of its vaccine needs to 60% by 2040.

“We are fully aware that this will be a challenge but we are also aware that a journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step,” he said.

He warned that if Africa does not plan to address its vaccine security needs today, the continent is setting itself up for failure.

He then announced a partnership with Afreximbank and the Africa Finance Corporation to support the development of vaccine manufacturing in Africa by focusing on four areas of support — identifying and engaging partners, co-financing transactions and projects, providing preparatory support to project developers and promoters, and providing policy and advocacy support to unlock major market barriers.

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