COVID 19 Vaccines for Africa: Time to look inward says Stakeholders

By Collins Ajibola

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused seismic disruptions to the every sector of the African continent, but has also offered significant lessons on the importance of self-reliance on the part of African countries when it comes to dealing with societal challenges, as well as greater collaboration with African partners, according to the Coalition for Dialogue on Africa (CoDa)

In a press conference ahead of the official launch of CoDA independent Task Team on Equitable and Universal Access to Vaccines and Vaccination in Africa scheduled to be held on June 21 at the University Auditorium, Igbinedion University Okada in Edo state, the Executive Director of CoDA, Ms. Souad Aden Osman, said the pandemic had opened the eyes of every African as the pandemic made the continent loo le the most unprepared n the world.   

‘’We have been hit by an unprecedented scourge. This pandemic has crippled the world but again we are coming out of it as if we were the worst unprepared continent. We have a situation where Cuba is going to vaccinate its people with its own vaccinate, but that is not the case with Nigeria for example.”

“Working closely with stakeholders such as governments, the youths, the academia, the civil society, the media, the private sector and industry is critical. It has to be a norm for us. What is also very important, which is a good lesson, is that self-reliance is very important for African countries. We cannot be relying on people or on other nations to find solutions for us, to come to our aid. We must find solutions for ourselves. We must be self-reliant in many areas, in many, many areas. We need to localize our solution. ” she said.

“With respect to COVID, it is highly evident that countries have been looking ‘inwardly’ to mitigate the effects of the pandemic. Western countries (which Africa is so dependent upon) are thinking of how they can help themselves few, if any, are thinking of how to help Africa. The biggest lesson Africa should learn from this pandemic is that they should rely upon themselves for survival. As an example, should a vaccine for controlling the virus be found, Africa will only receive it years later when the West has taken care of its citizens,” Ms. Souad Aden Osman added.

On his part, the President of the Pan African Manufacturers Association, Engr. Ahmed Mansur, Stated that he believes the continued heavy reliance on the West has stifled African development. 

“Increased productivity coupled with African economies being involved in whole value chains is critical for self-reliance. Regional integration and intra-Africa trade are also of paramount importance,” he said.

“When this pandemic struck most people believed that unless we can find a way of improving not only the supply of vaccines which is the latest position, but also medical faculties, respirators, medicines in equitable manner, but we thank God for making less serious than it could have been. But frankly it could have been worst. The reasons been that Africa has over relied on other countries and regions on things even for the most basic its inputs. ”

People stand in a queue to receive food aid, during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak at the Itireleng informal settlement, near Laudium suburb in Pretoria, South Africa, May 20, 2020. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko/File Photo TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY SEARCH “GLOBAL COVID-19” FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH “WIDER IMAGE” FOR ALL STORIES.

In April 2021, the Coalition for Dialogue on Africa (CoDA) convened a meeting on equitable access to vaccines and vaccination in Africa involving scientists, researchers, community and religious leaders, media, civil society, youth, and the private sector. Participants emphasized the need for investments by the African private sector in research, manufacturing, and distribution of vaccines, to increase access to essential vaccines and vaccinations across the continent. 

Following the meeting, CoDA established an independent task team of senior African and non-African experts which in partnership with the African Health Business, African Research Universities Alliance, Igbinedion University Teaching Hospital, and other stakeholders will facilitate implementation of the initiative.

The main objective of the task team is to support the African Union in its efforts to enable the participation of African private sector and civil society, through established African Union policy instruments, in generating demand for and enabling manufacturing and distribution of essential vaccines on the continent. 

The task team will amongst others be; Map existing continental and regional strategies, policies, and frameworks on essential vaccines and vaccinations in Africa to identify current challenges and gaps. Engage relevant stakeholders (e.g. public and private sector, academia, civil society, African philanthropists, etc.) on the development of strategies in support of indigenous manufacturing of essential vaccines for the African continent. Recommend financing and other innovative investments required to support indigenous vaccine manufacturing and facilitate equitable and universal access to essential vaccines and vaccinations across Africa.Contribute to the development of technical and policy papers in support of indigenous manufacturing of essential vaccines and oversee their dissemination. Foster partnerships on research of essential candidate vaccine targets that will inform manufacturing processes aimed at increasing access to vaccines and vaccinations across Africa, such as the African Health Business, African Research Universities Alliance, and Igbinedion University Teaching Hospital. 

The CoDA initiative on the development and equitable, universal access to essential vaccines and vaccinations in Africa was established within the framework of the African Union Agenda 2063, which seeks to promote pan-Africanism and African renaissance by harnessing the continental endowments embodied in African people, history, cultures, and natural resources to effect equitable and people-centered growth and development on the continent, with Africa taking full responsibility for financing its development. The initiative partly supports implementation of the framework for Fair, Equitable, and Timely Allocation of COVD-19 Vaccines in Africa”, an African Union instrument developed by the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention to take appropriate measures to ensure timely and equitable access to vaccines to safeguard lives and livelihoods in Africa and slow the progression of pandemics and outbreaks.

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