Africa Must Emulate India on Local Vaccine Making, Chief Says

Africa must emulate India and produce more of its own vaccines, said Strive Masiyiwa, the telecommunications billionaire assigned to help the continent secure Covid-19 shots.

If vaccine suppliers “want a long-term future with us,” they should manufacture their products on the continent, the African Union special envoy told a media briefing on Thursday. “When we got into trouble this time, it was because there was no production from the African continent,” he said.

Africa is the least vaccinated part of the world and many of its nations are battling a third wave of infections with little access to shots. Manufacturers have shifted to boosting local capacity to increase supplies without sharing technology and know-how.

There are fewer than 10 vaccine manufacturers in Africa, based across Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Senegal and South Africa, according to the World Health Organization. Most of them carry out packaging and labeling rather than manufacturing, making the continent ill-equipped to source and supply doses in times of crisis, as this pandemic has demonstrated.

The World Bank and a trio of western government agencies recently announced a 600 million euro ($708 million) financing package for production of the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine in South Africa, part of an effort to scale global production and meet demand for billions of doses.

Pfizer Inc. and German partner, BioNTech SE, this week reached an agreement with the Biovac Institute, also in South Africa, to start production of their Covid-19 vaccine in an effort to deliver more than 100 million doses annually to African nations.

“We are pleased to see that Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer have made commitments to ship from Africa,” said Masiyiwa, who heads the AU’s Africa Vaccine Acquisition Trust. “We prefer that they license producers in Africa rather than produce under contract because we want to be treated the same way as they produce in India,” he said.

The Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine maker, has a license from AstraZeneca Plc to manufacture the U.K.-based firm’s shot.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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