With the emergence of new Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) disease variants and mutants, a professor of medical microbiology and tropical medicine at the University of Nairobi, Prof Walter Jaoko, has called for the establishment of regional vaccine manufacturing centres in Africa.
He made the call during a virtual press briefing on COVID-19 vaccines and virus mutations convened by the African Science Media Centre (AfriSMC) today, June 4, 2021.
He said the move which should be spearheaded by the African Union (AU) should mobilise the regional blocks to leverage on their strengths, manpower, researchers and resources to develop vaccines rather than starting from the scratch.
Acknowledging that African countries may be unable to develop vaccines individually because of lack of infrastructure and the required massive capital needed to finance vaccine manufacturing, he said a regional block approach would give the continent better chance of coming up with a viable research output.
He, however, pointed out that the regional centre should not be restricted to COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing alone but may include other vaccines for other diseases as well as prepare the continent for the outbreak of future pandemics.
Jaoko also decried the unfair distribution of the vaccines saying while a country like Seychelles had vaccinated up to 70 per cent of its populace, with others like the USA, UK and Canada reaching over 30 per cent with vaccines to go round three to four times their population, Africa is still tailing behind with only about two per cent of its populace currently vaccinated.
He pointed out that though the number of people who need to be vaccinated in Africa was very low compared to the infections in the western world, controlling COVID-19 infection globally would reduce the transmission rate in the world.
According to him, hoarding the COVID-19 vaccines is not in the best interest of the world because controlling the pandemic in the western/developed countries only is a disadvantage which can lead to the infection of new variants, adding making the vaccines accessible to Africa would reduce global infection and reduce emergence of new mutants/variants.
He maintained that vaccines are safe, and urged Africa not to put off getting vaccinated but proceed with the vaccination, saying vaccines are life-saving and prevent severe diseases.