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Ramaphosa calls on global agencies to help boost Covid vaccine manufacturing in Africa

President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses the Second Global Covid-19 Summit on 12 May 2022. (Photo: GCIS)

President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the Second Global Covid-19 Summit on Thursday. He spoke of the progress the African continent had made in developing its vaccine manufacturing capabilities. However, he warned that this could be lost if international agencies failed to purchase vaccines from African manufacturers.

If the capabilities for vaccine manufacturing in Africa are to be retained, there is a need for multilateral agencies and philanthropic organisations to procure vaccines and boosters from African vaccine manufacturers, says President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Speaking at the Second Global Covid-19 Summit on Thursday, Ramaphosa detailed the progress that the African continent had made in advancing its vaccine manufacturing capacity, including the opening of the continent’s largest Covid-19 vaccine manufacturing plant in South Africa in 2021.

The World Health Organisation has provided support for South Africa to become the “centre of the mRNA process”, with hubs for tech transfer in countries such as Egypt, Nigeria, Kenya, Senegal and Tunisia, said Ramaphosa. 

In February, the African Union summit endorsed a common agenda for the manufacturing of vaccines, medicines, diagnostics and health products in Africa. 

“However, this progress may be reversed because 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 for those vaccines that are destined for African countries,” he said.

“This immediately just devalues the whole process of local manufacturing and local production of vaccines.”

As a number of African countries are “stepping up” to produce vaccines for those who live on the continent, Ramaphosa called for vaccines to be purchased “for Africans on African soil”.

“As South Africa and as the African Union Champion for Covid-19 Response, we call on the international community to ensure that solidarity and equity underpin this next phase in our management of the pandemic,” he said. 

“This means that vaccines produced in Africa must be procured in Africa for Africa’s people. This is vital for the continent’s health security, now and into the future.”

Low vaccination and testing rates

To prevent a regression into the “catastrophic early days” of the Covid-19 pandemic, many more people needed to have access to vaccinations, testing and treatment across the world, according to Ramaphosa.

“The global health recovery will not be inclusive as long as millions of people in developing economy countries remain unvaccinated. Africa has one of the world’s lowest vaccination rates at 16%, and coverage in low-income countries is still under 13%,” said Ramaphosa.

The total number of adults vaccinated in South Africa stands at 19,744,446, according to the latest statistics. This amounts to about 49.61% of the country’s adult population.

Ramaphosa emphasised that African leaders were committed to achieving 70% vaccine coverage through mass campaigns across the continent. He further voiced their continued support for a waiver of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement in the World Trade Organisation, which would see an improvement in global access to vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics.

“South Africa is donating five million doses of Pfizer vaccines and 10 million doses of [Johnson & Johnson] vaccine to other African countries to pledge our solidarity with those countries that are not able to access vaccines easily,” he continued.

In light of low Covid testing rates, African Union member states have committed to a target of 200 million Covid tests by the end of 2022, said Ramaphosa. This commitment will be coupled with the implementation of an enhanced surveillance strategy for community-based testing, wastewater testing and sentinel surveillance by the Africa Centre for Disease Control.

Ramaphosa spoke of South Africa’s $10-million contribution to the Global Fund, adding that the country would also continue to provide financial support for the Access to Covid-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator

“We need to be better prepared for future health crises and generate the financing to do so,” he said. 

“South Africa therefore supports the formation of the Financial Intermediary Fund as a mechanism to finance global health security.” DM/MC

 

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