September 30, 2022

But no orders came in.

By the time the deal was finalized in Marchmany African countries could not keep up with the number of shots coming their way from wealthier countries and COVAX, the global vaccine facility.

Johnson & Johnson’s one-time vaccine, which many health experts hoped would make it easier to vaccinate people in hard-to-reach areas, had fallen out of favor after regulatory authorities in Europe and the US found a link between the injection and rare, but serious, vaccines. blood clotting side effects.

Aspen Pharmacare’s challenges highlight some of the hurdles the continent must overcome to become self-sufficient in vaccine production and avoid falling victim to vaccine inequality – again.

Africa aims to produce 1.5 billion doses of vaccine by 2040 to meet 60 percent of the continent’s needs, compared to the less than 1 percent it meets today. The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that the 20-year plan costs $30 billion. There are 20 initiatives to expand production, including plans by BioNTech and Moderna to build facilities in Kenya, Rwanda and Senegal.

But “defaulting at first base doesn’t really inspire much confidence in the future,” Stavros Nicolaou, Aspen Pharmacare’s senior executive for strategic trade development group, told POLITICO.

To make Africa less dependent on others for vaccine production, governments on the continent and international donors must be willing to pay higher prices for shots made in Africa, experts and representatives of the pharmaceutical industry said.

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“If it’s an existing product already made in India and China, the price points will be a pet peeve,” said Sai Prasad, the chairman of the board of the Developing Countries Vaccine Manufacturers Network, which also includes African members.

That’s because the vaccines made in the two countries are produced in large quantities and can cost as little as $1 per injection. African-based producers won’t be able to compete with those prices at first because their production costs are higher, Prasad said.

But buyers will pay a premium for vaccines manufactured in Africa if they are new or not manufactured elsewhere, he added.

Making the right choices

That’s why it’s so important to select what to produce in Africa, Prasad said.

The inequality that African countries faced in getting Covid-19 injections is behind the push for more vaccine production in Africa. But those aren’t the vaccines producers on the continent should focus on, according to an analysis by Gavithe Vaccine Alliance, which negotiates vaccine prices for the poorest countries, many of them in Africa.

More suppliers are needed for injections against measles, rubella, cholera and malaria, and for emergency supplies of yellow fever and Ebola vaccines, Gavi said. In the future, potential vaccines for diseases that affect Africa, such as dengue fever, chikungunya or Zika, could also be produced on the continent, it said.

Gavi has been under pressure from African leaders to buy African-made shots, including Covid vaccines for Africans. The global health organization said it will come up with a plan by December on how to buy more African-made shots. Meanwhile, it warned that African countries eligible for Gavi support must also choose locally made vaccines that “meet the quality and value for money” when they become available through Gavi.

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Nicolaou van Aspen, for his part, does not blame the Johnson & Johnson vaccine his company chose for the lack of demand. When it comes to safety concerns, he said data from one of the largest vaccine studies conducted in South Africa has shown only a few cases of the rare blood clotting side effect, none of them fatal.

He said political leaders and global health authorities should re-energise demand for Covid-19 vaccines, which has fallen across the globe, even as Africa remains the least vaccinated continent, with only one in five of the more than 1 billion. people who have been vaccinated against the disease.

Nicolaou hopes African governments and COVAX will place vaccine orders as new waves of infection driven by Omicron subvariants sweep across the world.

Otherwise, his company will soon have to decide whether to close vaccine production lines and return to anesthetic production instead.

That is a lesson for wider vaccine production efforts in Africa.

“Ultimately it will be a matter of aligning demand with where the different suppliers are,” said Nicole Lurie, executive director of preparedness and response at the Oslo, Norway-based Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and Innovations, which works on vaccine research and development. development against emerging infectious diseases.

“A lot of emphasis has been put on building factories, but not much emphasis on expanding the market so far,” she said. “I think the name of the game will be a new market for new vaccines and who can make those vaccines and who needs them.”

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The new vaccines could be against tuberculosis and malaria, which would be much more in demand in Africa than in wealthier countries, she added.

Another way to grow the market is to focus on vaccines intended not only for children, but also adults, said Thomas Cueni, the director general of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations.

Get richer and pay for photos

One thing is clear: to get vaccine production off the ground, African governments will increasingly need to be able to pay for the injections themselves rather than relying on donor-backed organizations like Gavi.

“Donor sourcing, rightly so, strives for maximum concentration and thus the lowest possible prices, so that your dollar reaches and heals as many people as possible,” said Holm Keller, president of the kENUP Foundation, which deals with vaccines. large-scale production efforts in Africa.

“To achieve true equity, we need to produce locally at prices that are sustainable for the local economy,” he said.

Some countries that still rely on Gavi for vaccine procurement are expected to see their national income rise slightly as a result of economic development, making them better able to afford their own vaccines.

Senegal is one of them. It is also the location of a develop regional production hub for Covid-19 vaccines and other injections, located in the Pasteur Institute of Dakar, which produces vaccines against yellow fever.

The plan is to expand production of yellow fever vaccines, produce several Covid-19 vaccines, including those based on the mRNA technology, and invest in research and development for other diseases, said Joe Fitchett, senior consultant at the institute.

He sees the continent’s economic development and growing population as an opportunity for local vaccine manufacturers.

“Either you have existing manufacturers scaling up their capacity to meet demand to protect every child, or you have room for new manufacturers to be ready to serve that market by 2040,” Fitchett said.