By Alexander Winning
Johannesburg – International agencies and charitable foundations providing Covid-19 vaccines for Africa should order African-made vaccines, President Cyril Ramaphosa told a global Covid-19 summit on Thursday.
Ramaphosa's comments came after pharmaceutical company Aspen APNJJ said it could slash its capacity to produce a Covid vaccine manufactured with drug substance from Johnson & Johnson.
After struggling early in the pandemic to secure Covid-19 vaccines as rich countries hoarded available doses, many African countries are now well-supplied with shots but have struggled to get them into arms. The challenges include hesitancy and logistics.
Ramaphosa told the summit, co-hosted by the US, that African manufacturers must be supported to ensure developing capabilities on the continent were retained.
“International agencies that have had a lot of money donated to (them) for purchasing and procuring vaccines for developing economy countries are not buying vaccines from African vaccine manufacturers. Even those vaccines that are destined for African countries,” Ramaphosa said. “This immediately just devalues the whole process of local manufacturing.
“A number of African countries are now stepping up to produce vaccines for the 1.3 billion Africans… Vaccines produced in Africa must be procured in Africa for Africa’s people,” he said.
Separately on Thursday, a senior World Health Organization (WHO) official told a briefing that lessons would be learnt from Aspen’s difficulties.
Dr Abdou Salam Gueye, WHO Africa’s director of emergency preparedness and response, said the Aspen project had shown that good Covid-19 vaccines could be produced in South Africa.
He said the lack of orders was because global vaccine distribution scheme Covax, the main buyer of vaccines for Africa, had enough supplies.
John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, said global health security would be undermined if companies like Aspen were not backed.
“We have all lived through this challenge of inequity in vaccines, access and distribution… We don’t want to live through that again,” he said.