WORLD Health organisation (WHO) officials have selected Nigeria and five other African countries as production sites for the Covid-19 vaccine as part of a plan to globalise manufacturing to ensure effective distribution.
Although Africa has been spared the worst of the coronavirus pandemic, the continent is lagging way behind the rest of the world when it comes to vaccination. Because no African nation manufactures the vaccine, supplies have been limited and wholly dependent on international donations.
In a bid to redress this anomaly WHO has earmarked Nigeria, Egypt, Kenya, Senegal, South Africa, and Tunisia to manufacture the mRNA version of the vaccine. Tedros Ghebreyesus, WHO’s director-general said the six countries would receive the technology needed to produce mRNA vaccines at the African Union- European Union joint summit in Brussels later today.
Mr Ghebreyesus made the announcement at a ceremony hosted by the European Council, France, South Africa, and WHO yesterday. He called for equitable access to vaccines in order to beat the pandemic and criticised the way wealthy nations have held on to doses, leaving Africa lagging behind other continents in the global vaccination effort.
“Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia all applied and have been selected as recipients. The global mRNA technology transfer hub was established in 2021 to support manufacturers in low and middle income countries to produce their own vaccines, ensuring that they have all the necessary operating procedures and know-how to manufacture mRNA vaccines at scale and according to international standards.
“Primarily set up to address the Covid-19 emergency, the hub has the potential to expand manufacturing capacity for other products as well, putting countries in the driver’s seat when it comes to the kinds of vaccines and other products they need to address their health priorities. Depending on the infrastructure, workforce and clinical research, and regulatory capacity in place, WHO and partners will work with the beneficiary countries to develop a roadmap and put in place the necessary training and support so that they can start producing vaccines as soon as possible.
“No other event like the Covid-19 pandemic has shown that reliance on a few companies to supply global public goods is limiting and dangerous. In the mid-to-long term, the best way to address health emergencies and reach universal health coverage is to significantly increase the capacity of all regions to manufacture the health products they need, with equitable access as their primary endpoint,” Mr Ghebreyesus added.