World Health Organisation (WHO) has selected Nigeria and five other African countries to begin their own mRNA vaccine production.
In a statement on Friday, other countries selected as the first recipients of technology from the WHO’s global mRNA vaccine hub include Egypt, Kenya, Senegal, South Africa, and Tunisia.
WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, announced the first six countries that would receive the technology needed to produce mRNA vaccines on the African continent at the African Union summit in Brussels on Friday.
The announcement was made at a ceremony hosted by the European Council, France, South Africa, and WHO in the presence of President Macron, President Ramaphosa, the President of the European Council, Charles Michel and the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.
Part of the statement read, “Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia all applied and have been selected as recipients.
“The global mRNA technology transfer hub was established in 2021 to support manufacturers in low- and middle-income countries to produce their own vaccines, ensuring that they have all the necessary operating procedures and know-how to manufacture mRNA vaccines at scale and according to international standards.
“Primarily set up to address the COVID-19 emergency, the hub has the potential to expand manufacturing capacity for other products as well, putting countries in the driver’s seat when it comes to the kinds of vaccines and other products they need to address their health priorities.
“Depending on the infrastructure, workforce and clinical research, and regulatory capacity in place, WHO and partners will work with the beneficiary countries to develop a roadmap and put in place the necessary training and support so that they can start producing vaccines as soon as possible.”
Tedros was quoted as calling for equitable access to vaccines in order to beat the pandemic, and rails against the way wealthy nations have hogged doses, leaving Africa lagging behind other continents in the global vaccination effort.
He said, “No other event like the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that reliance on a few companies to supply global public goods is limiting, and dangerous.
“In the mid-to-long term, the best way to address health emergencies and reach universal health coverage is to significantly increase the capacity of all regions to manufacture the health products they need, with equitable access as their primary endpoint.”
Reacting, President Cyril Ramaphosa, of South Africa said, “This is an initiative that will allow us to make our own vaccines and that, to us, is very important. It means mutual respect, mutual recognition of what we can all bring to the party, investment in our economies, infrastructure investment and, in many ways, giving back to the continent.”