#Morocco : Less than 2% of Africans are vaccinated against Covid-19, for lack of vaccines. To get around this obstacle, some African countries have decided to embark on the production of precious doses. The African Union has also embarked on a long-term vaccine production program.
As a result, barely 2% of Africans are vaccinated, while the world average is around 25%.
Clearly, the Covid-19 has highlighted the lack of current vaccine capacity in Africa. According to the African Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), part of the African Union, Africa makes only 1% of the vaccines needed by its 1.3 billion people.
Faced with this situation, the only possible alternative remains the manufacture of vaccines at the continental level. This is all the more so as some African countries have the experience and the capacity to produce vaccines locally. There are less than ten manufacturers of human vaccines, with varying degrees of technical expertise, in Africa. These are located in Egypt, South Africa, Morocco, Senegal, Tunisia, Algeria and Nigeria.
>>> READ ALSO: Anti-Covid-19 vaccines: Egypt will soon start production of the Sinovac vaccine
In any case, faced with supply problems, some African countries have embarked on the manufacturing process. This is the case of South Africa and Egypt. Senegal, Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria also intend to join the ranks of manufacturers of anti-Covid-19 vaccines.
However, this manufacturing follows a complex process that involves an assembly line and production steps that often take place in different facilities before obtaining a final product.
The most critical step is the making of active ingredients, called antigens or immunogens, that trigger immune responses. In addition to the active ingredient, some vaccines also contain chemicals called adjuvants, the purpose of which is to stimulate the body’s immune response, and stabilizers that determine storage temperatures and required shelf life. Each component or ingredient can be produced in a different facility.
>>> READ ALSO: Anti-Covid-19 vaccines: Africa is “at an impasse” for its supply
It is all of these components that are mixed together in a process called vaccine formulation that results in the serum. Because of this complexity, African laboratories can choose to play the role of filling (Fill and finish), that is to say take the finished product and put it in syringes intended for injection.
At the continental level, South Africa has know-how for the manufacture of active ingredients within Biovac and in some of its universities. It also has physical facilities to manufacture vaccines. However, the Rainbow Country lacks the capacity to produce active ingredients for vaccines on a large scale.
But, it is the Aspen group that is engaged in the production of anti-Covid-19 vaccines. This company has invested 175 million euros to locally produce the Johnson & Johnson anti-Covid-19 vaccine. This unit, located in the Eastern Cape, is the only one to have obtained the approval of the American laboratory to assemble, fill and package the doses of vaccine.
>>> READ ALSO: Covid-19: mistrust of vaccines, a major obstacle to the immunization of Africans
The South African company plans to produce up to 250 million doses during the year, in partnership with the American laboratory.
Besides South Africa, Egypt is also on the right track. According to the Egyptian Minister of Health and Population, Hala Zayed, the manufacture of the first anti-Covid-19 vaccine in Egypt will be launched on Tuesday, June 15 by Vacsera, an Egyptian holding company for biological products and vaccines.
The latter received the raw materials to start the local production of the Chinese Sinovac vaccine. The first vaccines will be used within 6 weeks after the necessary checks. Previously, a delegation from the Chinese company traveled to Egypt to upgrade the production tool, train staff and transfer its expertise in the field of production.
>>> READ ALSO: Algeria: after the snub on vaccines, Tebboune decrees the production of SputniK-V
The Chinese teams will support their Egyptian counterparts during the production of a first batch of 2 million doses during the month of June. The Egyptian laboratory expects to produce up to 80 million Sinovac vaccines per year.
The Vacsera holding company received a grant of 750 million Egyptian pounds to modernize its teams in order to locally produce anti-Covid-19 vaccines.
In addition to the Sinovac vaccine, the Egyptian holding company is also expected to start production of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine this month.
In Senegal, the Institut Pasteur in Dakar, one of the two laboratories that had the means to detect the coronavirus at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in Africa, intends to start producing the vaccine by 2022. L ‘Institut Pasteur in Dakar having experience in the field and being a producer prequalified by WHO since 1966, of the vaccine against yellow fever, Senegal is supported in its project by France, the European Investment Bank (EIB ), …
>>> READ ALSO: Video. Covid-19: vaccines tested in Africa, when Inserm tries to defend the indefensible
As such, the biotechnology company Univercells de la Wallonie signed two declarations of intent with the Pasteur Institute in Dakar and the Senegalese Institute for Health Research, Epidemiological Surveillance and Training (IRESSEF) to produce vaccines for the West African region. “These synergies will allow Senegal to develop its own vaccines and thus aim for autonomy by favoring local vaccine production. These promising collaborations also aim, in the longer term, to extend this production to all of West Africa ”, underlined Elio Di Rupo, Minister-President of Wallonia, during the visit in May of the President Macky Sall in Belgium.
The Institut Pasteur in Dakar, present in Senegal for 120 years, has been producing vaccines for 80 years. The site of the discovery of the yellow fever virus in 1927, it has been producing the yellow fever vaccine since the 1930s and is one of the 4 producers worldwide approved by the WHO and contributes to the global availability of this vaccine.
In addition to Senegal, Tunisia, the third country most affected by the Covid-19 pandemic on the continent, is committed to locally producing the anti-Covid-19 vaccine.
>>> READ ALSO: Algeria: after the snub on vaccines, Tebboune decrees the production of SputniK-V
Tunisia locally manufactures the BCG vaccine, one of the most complicated vaccines to produce. However, Dr Nizar Laabidi, production manager of the Institut Pasteur de Tunis, quoted by the Emirati daily The National, raises the problems related to financing to procure components, the availability of material and human resources, and above all the know-how which is impossible to acquire in such a short time. According to the expert, only a technology transfer of vaccines against Covid-19 could allow its production.
Morocco aspired to become a major producer of vaccines. And the Covid-19 pandemic has relaunched his project. The Kingdom has put in place a national strategy to achieve this goal and meet growing African demand.
To achieve this, the creation of a platform at the level of the Tanger Tech city is planned. And the Chinese laboratory Sinopharm should support Morocco with a transfer of technology in partnership with a private Moroccan laboratory. The project technically consists of producing pre-filled injectable doses of vaccines supplied by the Chinese laboratory. Likewise, it is planned to transform the Institut Pasteur in Casablanca into a real platform for the production of vaccines of all kinds.
>>> READ ALSO: Production of vaccines in Algeria: an impossible mission, the country is not even capable of “approving a mask”
In addition, Rwanda is also committed to producing vaccines locally. President Paul Kagame announced that his country would host the first mRNA manufacturing plant, during a virtual discussion on the pandemic. It was the first country on the continent to use an mRNA vaccine last March, administering the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine. The other mRNA vaccine used against the pandemic is the one manufactured by Moderna.
One thing is certain, if many African countries wish to engage in the production of anti-Covid-19 vaccines and have industrial devices to manufacture doses against Sars-Cov-2, all African countries will need it. support for laboratories mastering the technology to produce them quickly.
In addition, without the commitment and support to purchase doses made in Africa, it will be difficult to build a true vaccine industry. However, with small local markets, the production of doses, on a sufficient scale, can only be done with the purchase guarantee of these at the level of the continent.
>>> READ ALSO: Covid-19: the African Union wants to create five vaccine manufacturing poles on the continent
Consequently, the involvement of the African Union can help change the situation. This is how the pan-African institution announced the launch of a partnership for the manufacture of African vaccines (Pavm). To achieve this, the AU, in partnership with the Coalition for Innovations in Epidemic Preparedness (Cepi) which is co-piloting the Covax program with the WHO, the pan-African bank Afreximbank and the Africa finance corporation, has split the continent. into 5 vaccine research and manufacturing poles which will be developed in each of the continent’s 5 major regions (North Africa, West Africa, Central Africa, Southern Africa and East Africa).
Clearly, the Covid-19 pandemic represents an opportunity to put in place a roadmap capable of enabling the continent to reduce its dependence on vaccines and be able to cope with pandemics such as Covid-19. As such, the Africa CDC has set an ambitious goal: that 60% of the vaccines, which the continent needs by 2040, be produced at the continent level.
>>> READ ALSO: Covid-19: a geopolitics of vaccines, or when the Brics rush to the bedside of Africa
The unlikely lifting of patents on Covid-19 vaccines could also help facilitate the production of vaccines at the continent level.
In the meantime, only one African country has embarked on a process of developing the anti-Covid-19 vaccine, Nigeria. The country had released 25 million dollars to locally develop this vaccine last January. In March, Federal Government Secretary Boss Mustapha announced that two vaccines were in development. They must pass the stages of clinical trials and certification before obtaining their approval.