By Nathan Ohiomokhare
The COVID-19 pandemic has made clear the risks of African countries importing 99% of the vaccines administered to its populations. African health Ministers say the vaccine production and supply chain situation needs to change.
According to DEVEX Newswire 99% of the vaccines used in Africa are imported. This has exposed the dangers of dependence on foreign production capacity determined by western politics and capitalism, thereby leaving residents in Africa without life saving supplies of the COVID-19 vaccines.
South Africa: Aspen Pharmacare reported that, as at December 2021, it had partially produced 120 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. Aspen announced in October that it aims to increase production to 1.3 billion doses per annum.
The African Union ordered for 400 million doses, which are partially manufactured at Aspen through the “fill and finish” stage- the final step of the process where the substance of the vaccine is sent to the plant to be put in vials and distributed.
In July 2021, Pfizer entered into arrangements with South Africas Biovac Institute to partially manufacture its COVID-19 vaccine in it's Cape Town facility for distribution within the African Union. Facilities in Europe will send Biovac the vaccine substance to be put in vials. At full operational capacity, the annual production is expected to be over 100 million doses.
The World Health Organization and its partners have concluded plans to create a technology transfer hub for messenger RNA COVID-19 vaccines. This is to develop a replica of Moderna’s vaccine in Africa. The hub is replicating the Moderna vaccine because the company has reiterated on several occasions that they will not enforce their intellectual property during the pandemic. The hub plans to train 10 manufacturers and has initiated Calls for expressions of interest from manufacturers. The hub will start production of a vaccine for clinical studies and conduct phase 1 trials. Subsequently the hub will establish a second-generation mRNA vaccine technology providing advantages over the current candidate, as well as working to adapt the technology to emerging strains and vaccination strategies.
Rwanda and Senegal: Both countries in October 2021, signed an agreement with BioNTech to construct manufacturing facilities for full production of mRNA vaccines under license. The first production line will produce up to about 50 million COVID-19 vaccine doses per year. Institut Pasteur de Dakar is planning to host a regional manufacturing hub in Senegal, and there is already a vaccine construction site for a facility to build mRNA vaccines that will start producing vaccines by end of 2022.
Egypt: has already started producing its own COVID-19 vaccine, named “COVI VAX,” which is currently under phase 1 clinical trials. Egypt is also producing doses of Sinovac, and an Egyptian manufacturer, Minapharm Pharmaceuticals, has agreed to produce Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine at 40million doses per annum.
As of early December, Egypt has also locally produced 25 million doses of Sinovac at the state firm Vacsera, which has largely served domestic needs. It is currently producing 2.5 million doses monthly, with an expected additional 1.5 to 2 billion doses yearly in its new line of production, which is expected to be operational in 2022.
Algeria started producing Sinovac vaccine doses in late September 2021.
Morocco’s Sothema laboratory is producing Sinopharm vaccines, which the company said will be on the market very soon, to serve both domestic demand and to export across the continent. It is expected to produce 5 million doses per month.
Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, and Nigeria have also expressed interest in vaccine manufacturing.
In April 2021 Africa CDC launched the Partnerships for African Vaccine Manufacturing with a long-term vision of ramping up the vaccine manufacturing capacity across the continent such that it can produce 60% of all vaccines used in African nations by 2040; with interim goals of 10% by 2025, and 30% by 2030. The aim is to be ample prepared for other disease outbreaks and epidemics not just Covid-19.
Moderna has plans to build an mRNA therapeutics and vaccine manufacturing facility on the African continent with capacity to produce 500million vaccine doses annually. The company is yet to decide on the African country to host it's facility and is currently doing it's due diligence to select a country.