Manufacturing COVID-19 vaccines: Local pharma ready but wants gov’t guarantee

Lucia Addae, Executive Director of PMAG
  • unhappy with exclusion from vaccines manufacturing committee 

The Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association of Ghana (PMAG) has said that some of its members have positioned themselves to begin the production of COVID-19 vaccines locally, but are yet to get firm assurance from government that it will purchase from them.

According to PMAG, government’s assurance is critical in these times because huge capital will be injected into the production of the vaccines – and manufacturers will need firm purchasing assurance to sustain operations.

Executive Director of PMAG, Lucia Addae, in an interview with the B&FT said: “It is important to state that the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association of Ghana is very excited about the news of government supporting us to manufacture vaccines locally. It is something that we have prepared over the years for.

“But it is important that when you manufacture vaccines – a product you cannot sell over the counter or in the open market – you need to have a lot of government support, be it a guaranteed market. So, the reason why we don’t have a company currently manufacturing vaccines is that we don’t have government buying from us. If there is that will, it makes it very easy for our local manufacturers to actually go into vaccine-manufacturing,” she said.

Ms. Addae stressed that Ghana has companies which have an interest in manufacturing vaccines, and companies have positioned themselves with the right infrastructure and equipment to manufacture vaccines locally.

The only worry, she noted, is “the fear that when you manufacture and government doesn’t buy from you, your company will collapse. We have in the past had companies who set up Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API) companies and collapsed, because they didn’t receive the necessary support they needed as a company”.

Meanwhile, the association has expressed its disappointment at their exclusion from the committee set up by government to see about the local production of COVID-19 vaccines.

“Let me state that PMAG is a little disappointed a committee that was formed did not invite us.  We have been informed that a committee has been set up, and we finding out what the committee is made up of and who is going to be called and all of that from the public. But currently we have not received any information about the committee; we have not been invited to any briefing.

“In the set-up we are not even included, which we don’t think is appropriate; because if we are going to do implementation, if we are serious about vaccine implementation, then the people who are going to manufacture should be engaged to know whether they are interested or not; to know whether they are ready or not, to know whether they have the infrastructure or not. So, it is something that we would still want to go ahead and engage with government on, to see what can be done for us,” Ms. Addae said.

She has however outlined the support system pharma manufacturers would need from government in their quest to go into the production of vaccines: “What we need is in three categories: We need affordable finance. The second thing that we need is a guaranteed market, which is very important; because like I mentioned earlier, if government doesn’t guarantee the market for local manufacturers when it comes to vaccines, it becomes very difficult.

“And the final thing is incentive. We are competing against multinationals which have financial muscle, and have the world at their beck and call. If government is going to support local manufacturing of vaccines, then it should ensure there are incentives – including taxes – that favour local manufacturers.”

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