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Saturday, July 13, 2024

European-funded Initiative Aims At Creating ‘African Vaccine Market’

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African leaders have teamed up with Europe and Western countries to push for a comprehensive strategic partnership to a new height, this time in the health sector. At this crucial time of rising geopolitical tensions, the leaders reached an agreement to accelerate the rollout of vaccines in Africa, after the coronavirus pandemic exposed gaping inequalities in accessing them from advanced countries. Many African countries learned invaluable lessons, witnessed discriminatory supplies and still have excellent memory of searching for vaccines during coronavirus pandemic 2019.

At a Global Forum for Vaccine Sovereignty and Innovation held in Paris, France, in June 2024, the launch of the African Vaccine Manufacturing Accelerator (AVMA) now provided financial incentives to vaccine manufacturers to step up production locally in Africa, which faces numerous health crises including rising cholera outbreaks. “Africa produces only 2% of the vaccines it uses, and the goal that we have set is that by 2040 the production is increased to reach 60%,” French President Emmanuel Macron said at the opening of the summit. “France and Europe have supported this ambition since 2021 with 1.2 billion euros (allocated), and we need to accelerate it.”

Three quarters of this funding will come from Europe, Macron told the summit, which was also attended by leaders from Botswana, Rwanda, Senegal, Ghana, as well as visiting ministers, health groups and pharmaceutical firms. Germany will contribute $318 billion to the scheme, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in a video message. France put in $100 million and the UK $60 million, while other donors include the United States, Canada, Norway, Japan and the Gates Foundation.

 

Reports said GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, a public-private partnership that helps get needed vaccines to developing countries around the world, would make up to $1 billion available over the next decade to help increase Africa’s manufacturing base, to improve global vaccines markets and improve preparedness and response to pandemics and outbreaks like HIV, malaria, tuberculosis and COVID-19.

The Geneva-based alliance says the accelerator will inject funds into manufacturers in Africa once they hit supply and regulatory milestones, with an aim to use market forces to drive down prices and encourage investment upstream.

Officials say the project will also explore issues like technology transfer — which has been resisted by some Western countries with powerful pharmaceutical companies — as well as the possible creation of a African medicines agency and tackling regulatory hurdles faced in Africa’s patchwork of legal systems.

 

The scheme “could become a catalyst for promoting the pharmaceutical industry in Africa and fostering collaboration between member states”, Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC), Moussa Faki Mahamat, told the summit. Africa imports “99 percent of its vaccines at an exorbitant cost”, he added.

The new scheme aims to move vaccine production to Africa to give the continent more sovereignty — and avoid history repeating. Macron called for cholera to be “consigned to the past” and noted that outbreaks were now affecting “half of Africa”. The expectation was that a production chain for cholera vaccines be launched in Africa by the South African biopharmaceutical firm Biovac.

At the Global Forum for Vaccine Sovereignty and Innovation forum, Gavi announced it is seeking to raise $9 billion to fund its vaccine programmes from 2036 to 2030. The United States will contribute $1.58 billion to the Gavi effort, first lady Jill Biden said in a video message, with more commitments later expected. GAVI chair Jose Manuel Barroso said that “one million children vaccinated since 2000 is an incredible achievement”.

 

According to the European Commission, the AVMA funds will purchase more than 800 million vaccine doses produced in Africa over the next decade. “The initiative will diversify the set of global vaccine suppliers with a target of at least four African vaccine manufacturers entering the market in a sustainable way,” the Commission said.

Many parts of Africa have recently seen deadly outbreaks of cholera, which has highlighted the need for more local vaccine producers. Only one firm in the world — South Korea’s EuBiologics — makes the cheap and effective oral vaccine doses for the deadly disease. Thanks to the new money, “we are sure that within two years, Africa will be producing the cholera vaccine,” said Jean Kaseya, head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

The AVMA is a new financial mechanism that will provide nearly €1 billion over ten years to support African vaccine manufacturers. It was officially launched at a global forum co-hosted by France, the African Union and the international vaccine organization GAVI.The new funds will contribute to the African Union’s goal of manufacturing, at least, 60 per cent of the continent’s required vaccine doses by 2040, according to GAVI. The African Vaccine Manufacturing Accelerator (AVMA) is the brainchild of GAVI and the Centre for African Disease Prevention and Control (CDC-Africa) headquartered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

 

By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh

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