AFRICAN countries should be supported to manufacture Covid-19 vaccines on the continent to boost the fight against the pandemic, billionaire businessman and Africa Union (AU) envoy for the coronavirus, Dr Strive Masiyiwa, has said.
This comes as the AU will this week begin distribution of 400 million Johnson and Johnson vaccines under the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT) as the continent seeks to vaccinate 60 percent of its population by 2022.
Speaking at the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) weekly press briefing last week, Dr Masiyiwa said structures were now in place for the facilitation of Covid-19 vaccines production centres in Africa.
“We want to make clear to all suppliers that if you want a long-term future with us now, you should produce from Africa,” he said.
“I have advised my Presidents that we need production capacity now if we don’t have production capacity. If we do not have production capacity if the same problem comes we will be in the same predicament. In the last few weeks President Cyril Ramaphosa and the AVAT team have been engaging European countries about the delivery of vaccine substance over donations. So the Europeans have agreed to ship vaccine substances to our facility in Aspen.
“We appreciate the move because we want to ramp up production on the continent. We will not solve this crisis through donations, we need to have production on the continent.”
Under AVAT, six million vaccines will this week be distributed to 27 countries that have already paid, while 18 other African countries are finalising loan agreements with the World Bank.
Dr Masiyiwa, a Zimbabwean, said:
“So we expect that by the end of August, 45 countries will have completed their first shipment, thereafter Johnson and Johnson will be shipping from the Aspen facility an average 10 million doses between September and December this year.
“In January we move to 20 million a month and we will continue exponentially increasing that until all 400 million doses have been delivered by September next year.”
Speaking at the same meeting, Director of Africa CDC, Dr John Nkengasong, said support teams were being sent to countries across the continent to fight the pandemic’s third wave.
“We are deploying teams in all member states to fight the third wave and help reduce the burden at health care centres. As part of our strategy we deploy a small team of responders with commodities and we recruit 500 – 1000 people in the host country. We then go to hot spots and try to bend the curve as much as possible.”