THE chairperson of the African Union, President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, has called on all African states to collaborate in the development and the distribution of a vaccine against the COVID-19 virus.
Africa’s COVID-19 related deaths stood at 8856. A total of 333 019 people have been infected and 160 883 have recovered from their infections.
Ramaphosa called for a roadmap that would involve efforts by Africans to produce effective, safe and affordable vaccines. “It is essential that there be significant local vaccine manufacturing in Africa,” he said.
Ramaphosa was speaking at a virtual conference, hosted by the AU and the African Centre for Disease Control and Prevention on Africa’s leadership role in the development and access to the potential COVID-19 vaccines.
The AU chairperson said while the disease was still in its early stages in Africa, infections were on the rise as countries eased their lockdowns in the face of mounting social and economic pressures.
He complimented AU member states for decisively acting together in developing a strategy to combat the pandemic.
“We have been innovative in addressing our resource constraints through, for example, the establishment of the AU COVID-19 Response Fund, the Africa Medical Supplies Platform and the Partnership to Accelerate COVID-19 Testing.
“We need to be similarly innovative, focused and collaborative in our approach to the development and effective distribution of a vaccine. Success in developing and providing access to a safe vaccine for all Africans requires collaboration and cooperation of all member states,” Ramaphosa said.
He emphasized that ingredients vaccines for all diseases, including for COVID-19 and the Expanded Programme of Immunisation, should be sourced from African manufacturers.
“The challenges and efforts needed to rapidly develop, evaluate and produce such a vaccine at scale are enormous. As are the resources required to ensure sufficient coverage across a continent as vast and populous as ours. Therefore, we need to act with urgency.
“As African leaders, we need to join our efforts and negotiate with global donors to raise funds – and we need to mobilise resources in each of our countries and within the continent – to secure supply of the vaccine upfront. We need to start to plan now and to improve the infrastructure in each of our countries to prepare for the rollout of the vaccine.
“This includes accelerating regulatory approvals, strengthening supply chains and improving our ability to deliver the vaccine to the population. Given the depth of expertise and capability on this continent, we need to support the contribution of African scientists and health care professionals to the vaccine effort. This pandemic has forced African countries to revise their budgets to prioritise spending on health, including on infrastructure, logistics and the purchase of pharmaceuticals, medical products, equipment and materials,” Ramaphosa said.
He also emphasised the essential value of maintaining funding for medical research even after the current health crisis has passed, so that Africa would be ready for the next pandemic.
Ramaphosa added: “The coronavirus pandemic is not the last such tragedy that humanity will encounter. Let us be prepared and let us be ready to work towards a much more responsive and equitable medical system. We need to develop centres of excellence and robust health systems capable of withstanding any threat. We urgently need to introduce universal health coverage to ensure no one is unable to access health care when they need it. By working together, by pooling our resources and by investing in innovation, we shall overcome this grave threat to the health and well-being of our people.”