Plans are underway to establish a manufacturing plant for malaria and COVID-19 vaccines in Nigeria, Ghana and Senegal, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has said.
The soon-to-be-launched malaria and COVID-19 vaccines are aimed at preventing the deadly viruses in West African countries, and to help prepare ECOWAS member-countries in case of future pandemic or public health emergency.
Meanwhile, President Muhammad Buhari has said the vaccine rate in Africa is well below average, attributing it to the imbalance in distribution. He called on ECOWAS member-countries to work towards self-sufficiency in manufacturing pharmaceuticals and vaccines.
Speaking at the ECOWAS Health Ministers’ conference, which ended on Saturday in Abuja, the President, who was represented by the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, said Africa must not lag in the research and development of new products.
Buhari stressed the importance for the ECOWAS region to embrace the global agenda of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) as a critical element the requires recommitment for increased people-centred investment in sustainable health development that strengthens health work force on infrastructure and laboratory capacities within and across ECOWAS country borders.
Likewise, he explained that the West African Health Organization (WAHO) has continued to pool resources and cooperate with each other and and with others to achieve a high standard of protection of health in West African countries and fight against health challenges of the sub-region.
He said, “Though these challenges seemed daunting, I am convinced that they have strengthened us and that we have risen, and shall continue to rise to the challenge of building back better, if we unite, work in solidarity and with a sense of purpose in our resolve to manage all phases of COVID-19 evolution.
“WAHO met the challenges of the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, and efficiently coordinated the ECOWAS sub-regional pandemic response. Nigeria played its part in this respect, strongly supporting our region’s COVID-19 response efforts from pandemic onset.
“In my capacity as COVID-19 Response Champion of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, three ministerial Coordinating Committees worked faithfully to propose and agree on policies and procedures for coordinated regional approach to pandemic related issues in health, trade and transport, and finance. The robust efficient, critical support provided by WAHO to member States during the pandemic has been well received and appreciated.”
The Health Minister of Ghana, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu also gave an update on the malaria vaccine, saying it would begin in Africa, including Nigeria next year.
According to Kwaku, the company to produce malaria vaccines would not be able to produce enough for every children in West Africa in the first year.
The minister, however, explained that there is ongoing talk with a pharmaceutical company, GlaxoSmithline Plc (GSK) as regards the manufacturing of malaria vaccines in Africa.
“So ECOWAS is working towards collaboration to ensire that we have a manufacturing plant in Africa that will produce malaria vaccines in Africa,” Kwaku said.