The Pharmaceutical Association of Ghana (PMAG) has appealed that government should look at engaging producers of COVID-19 vaccines to either supply the country in bulk or entice them to set up in the country in collaboration with local pharma-makers to serve the sub-region and continent at large.
According to PMAG, the move is to help guarantee a reliable supply of vaccines to the country, sub-region and continent – at a time vaccine nationalism seem to be taking root globally.
The World Health Organisation says Africa urgently needs more COVID-19 vaccine supplies as deliveries begin to slow down and initial batches are nearly exhausted in some countries. The continent has so far administered 7.7 million vaccine doses, mainly to high-risk population groups.
Also, 44 African countries have received vaccines through the COVAX Facility or through donations and bilateral agreements, and 32 of them have begun vaccinations. The COVAX Facility has supplied nearly 16 million doses to 28 countries since launching deliveries to the continent on 24 February. This figure is said to be significantly inadequate, considering the continent’s population is about 1.5 billion.
Executive Director of PMAG Lucia Addae in an interview with the B&FT said: “News about the challenges we are facing in getting the vaccine has brought to mind the conversation we have had all this while about the role local pharma manufacturing companies can play. Countries are being inward-looking and no one can blame them; we know that COVAX is not coming because India is producing to feed itself; that’s why we are calling for government to negotiate and bring in the bulk vaccine so we do the filling here in the country.
“Government can engage the producers – Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca – and all the other producers of vaccines to find ways of getting it produced here in the country through the collaboration of local manufactures with enough capacity to help. This will help to get the vaccine close to West Africa for the sub-region and the continent. We need to put in some effort for the backward integration to get the vaccines produced here in the country,” she said.
Ms. Addae added that the country’s herd-immunity target is at risk, and an all-hands-on-deck approach is needed to address it.
“Government has announced that it wants to achieve herd-immunity by vaccinating 20 million people by the end of the year: but as we speak, this intention is very challenged. A broader stakeholder engagement is needed to learn the way forward and how best all hands can come on deck to address this matter, and pharmaceutical manufacturers are ready to help.”
Meanwhile, head of the National Immunisation Programme at the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr. Kwame Amponsa-Achiano, says the move to immunise 20 million people is an uphill task but possible – considering the investments producers of the vaccines have put into manufacturing them.
For him, many of them are likely to think more about how to recoup their investments even though they might put a little margin on production of the vaccines; and it will depend on African nations to come together and make a decision as to how to help the producer-companies recoup their investments… and Ghana can take a lead role in that conversation.