Increased funding for health and the creation of an enabling environment for the private sector are some of the solutions proffered by experts for vaccine research and development in Africa.
They stated this during a webinar organised by the Coalition for Dialogue on Africa (CoDA) in collaboration with Igbinedion University Okada, Edo State, ahead of the launch of the Independent Task Team on Equitable and Universal Access to Vaccines and Vaccination in Africa.
The experts, drawn from health and economic sectors in the region, expressed concern over Africa’s dependence on others for essential vaccines, adding that there was need for a collective continental strategy to achieve vaccine sovereignty and sufficiency.
Prof. Arthur Mutambara, a former deputy prime minister of Zimbabwe, said COVID-19 is a wake-up call that Africa cannot continue to depend on the benevolence and goodwill of other regions for vaccines.
He said the continent could not resolve its issues around vaccine and vaccinations as single countries but by pooling resources together and working collectively as a continent.
Mutambara, who is also a Professor of Robotics, said government must fund health effectively and create an enabling environment for the private sector to achieve this.
“Government should create an enabling environment for the private sector to play a role in research and development of vaccines, manufacture, and roll-out strategy of vaccines on the continent. Africans must also be funders of research and development of their vaccines.
“Government must pay for healthcare; 15% of the GDP must go to healthcare as Africans so we can have our own vaccines agenda.
“When we depend on GAVI and Global Fund it doesn’t allow us to determine the agenda. We must control the agenda by paying for healthcare on the continent, and also motivate the private sector to participate in vaccines,” he said
An economic expert, Prof Sylvain Boko, said Africa represents about $1.3 billion of the vaccine market today, adding that it is an area projected to witness rapid growth compared to what obtains in other regions.
He said, “There are estimates that the market size could double. Between now and 2030, there are estimates that the market size could go up to five billion dollars by 2030.”
Prof Boko, who is also an adviser to the CODA board of directors on domestic resources, mobilization, illicit financial flows and other matters said the worth of the market today is what is being taken away by foreign producers of vaccines.
Prof Godwin Bazuaye, chief medical director, Igbinedion University Teaching Hospital, and a stem cell transplantologist said Africa pays over 1.5 billion dollars on vaccines, adding that there is need for training of Africans on research and development and manufacturing and distribution of vaccines.
He said that is why the hospital is setting up a centre of excellence to look at research and manufacturing of vaccines.
“We are ready to work with CODA to ensure that Africa has its vaccine soon and that Africans are trained to manufacture vaccines,” he added.
Mansur Ahmed, President of Pan-African Manufacturers Association, and an executive director at Dangote Group said Africa must build the capacity of its manufacturing industries to produce vaccines and other things that it needs to sustain the livelihoods of her people.
“The issues we are facing today on vaccine availability and accessibility clearly speak to the need to build manufacturing capacity across Africa, not only to begin to produce things for our own consumption but also things that will enable us to trade equitably with other nations,” he said.