Dr John Nkengasong, Director-General of the African Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (ACDC) has said unless stakeholders act now, Africa is at the risk of being left behind on the search for COVID-19 vaccine.
He suggested heads of member states, academia, researchers, media, manufacturing companies and the private sector should play key roles.
Dr Nkengasong said this in a continental virtual ‘Africa’s Leadership in COVID-19 Vaccine Development and Access’ conference towards harnessing synergies for vaccine production in Africa.
He said many promising vaccine candidates are in clinical trials and a total of 128 COVID-19 vaccines were in development are at pre-clinical stage, some 13 in phase one, nine in phase two and one in phase three.
He said Africa continental strategy emphasised the need for vaccines to prevent transmission, prevent deaths and prevent social and economic harm.
Dr Nkengasong said Africa’s scientists are ready to contribute more at all levels to global R&D with the continent having a track record in developing and testing vaccines adding “COVID-19 vaccine will require intensive collaboration and partnerships across Africa-focused stakeholders.''
South African President, Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa and Chairperson of African Union called for a pan-African approach to the fight against COVID-19 through effective collaboration and cooperation among member states and other stakeholders including; scientists, experts, researchers, media as well as public and private institutions.
He called for strategic planning towards a holistic pan-African health research centres of excellence by increasing infrastructure and funding to research in readiness for the next pandemic. “Let us be prepared and ready.” Mr Mahamat Moussa Faki, Chair of the African Union Commission said Africa needs to develop a standing framework for the development and accessibility of vaccines pledging the support of the continent for international assistance to develop treatment regimes through vaccines.
“We must rely on the efforts and expertise of academia, researchers, donors and others to give new directions through solidarity and more pragmatic pan-African measures for the salvation of the population,’’ he said.
He said some $65 million was mobilised towards vaccine development, rolled out over 10 million tests across the continent and launched a continental platform to resolve shortage of suppliers and delays in medicine supplies to needed population.
Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, Chair of the World Health Organisation (WHO) said the global institution is accelerating preparedness for the containment of the pandemic that has grossed more than 9 million cases and more than 400,000 deaths.
He said Africa had recorded fewer cases but now seeing alarming case counts similar to cases being recorded in Western Pacific.
He said WHO was establishing platforms to address supply gaps as more than 220 vaccine candidates were under development stating that “some will be successful and some will fail.’’
Dr Ghebreyesus pledged that vaccines would be distributed as soon as it was available rather than the ability to pay saying ‘’we need global solidarity and participation of all countries.
He said COVID-19 is not a setback but a catalyst to drive all countries forward saying ‘’WHO is ready to work with all including AUC and Africa CDC.’’
“Health is human rights towards achieving universal health coverage (UHC).”
Other experts called for the establishment of vaccine clinical trial network across the continent, stand up vaccine regulatory working groups, support countries to strengthen health systems to produce vaccines targeting the exceptional population and launch continental-wide advocacy campaigns breaking pandemics to the understanding of the masses.