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Africa set to take a leading role in vaccine research, production and distribution – Obasanjo

Jul, 2021 | By Darlington Omotoso | ||

The continent of Africa, which is predicted to be the fastest growing continent in the next ten to fifteen years, has begun the journey towards reinventing itself by taking a leading role in research and development, manufacturing, distribution and export of vaccines and other pharmaceuticals to other continents instead of remaining a dumping ground and target for big pharmaceutical companies in America and Europe, taking undue advantage of the large population size, of her 55 member states.

Chairman ,Board of Directors, Coalition of Dialogue on Africa, CoDA, and former Head of State and President of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo disclosed this at the formal launch of the independent task team of CoDA on equitable and Universal Access to vaccines and vaccination in Africa, which took place recently at Igbinedion University, Okada, Edo State.

Represented by the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General in United Nations' Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali, MINUSMA and a Board Member of CoDA, Professor Abdoulaye Bathily, Obasanjo said, "just two months ago, we held a dialogue involving academics, researchers, scientists, public health experts, youth, civil society, faith leaders, and community leaders to discuss how to increase access to vaccines and vaccination in Africa.

''During that dialogue I had pledged my commitment to ensuring that recommendations from the dialogue are implemented and with speed. I am glad to let you know that today's launch is in fulfilment of that promise and it marks the beginning of new partnerships and collaborations that will see our continent play a lead role in vaccine development, production and distribution. I have always believed that Africa's main challenge is not the lack of funds or resources. Our main challenge is the inability to harness available resources to provide customized home-grown solutions needed to address the challenges we see across the continent.

Many of our researchers, doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers are constantly being drawn out of the continent to serve in other continents. They use their intellect to serve the needs of other continents, and most times without being duly credited or acknowledged for their intellectual investments, while our own health systems are underdeveloped. We need to reverse this trend and begin to take actions to harness our local resources to solve our local problems."

Through initiatives like this one, Africa will be able to encourage and retain its talents and support them in finding solutions to its age-long healthcare challenges. The initiative we are launching today is one of those initiatives that will help Africa look inwards to identify and channel available resources to areas where they are needed. This initiative has the potential to positively change the vaccine and vaccination landscape across the continent and set a precedence for vaccine entrepreneurship in the continent" he added.

In his address, the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, said "it is commendable that the Coalition for Dialogue in Africa (CoDA) is collaborating with the reputable Igbinedion University Teaching Hospital to proffer solutions to perhaps the most intractable subject matter confronting Africa in responding to the COVID19 pandemic: this being getting access to COVID-19 vaccines.

On vaccine access, The Minister said, "FMoH evaluated indigenously developed candidate vaccines and vaccines with WHO Emergency Use Listing, while 'Vaccine Nationalism' evolved, such that access was prioritised to favour wealthy countries to the detriment of developing countries. The Ministry then convened a National COVID-19 Vaccine Conference, to mobilise experts, development partners and other stakeholders, to create a unified and strategic national front for vaccine acquisition, and vaccination of Nigerians.

Speaking at the launch, Deputy Chairperson, African Union Commission, Dr Monique Nsanzabaganwa, said she could not hide her joy witnessing the historic event that heralded a renewed involvement of the private sector in finding solutions to the challenges associated with vaccines and vaccinations in Africa. "Universities and research institutions are established as citadels of learning and excellence, and centres of intellectual prowess capable of leading research and discoveries on issues affecting human lives.

However, for some reasons, public health research in Africa has suffered some setbacks in the past few decades partly because of insufficient investment in research and development. The gaps between public health research, the private sector and public policy in Africa continue to widen, partly because the African private sector has not shown sufficient interest in health sector research and development."

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