By Asmau Ahmad with agency report
South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday urged international organisations backing vaccination against COVID-19 to start buying vaccines from African pharmaceutical companies as one such manufacturer risked halting production for lack of orders.
Africa’s most industrialised country has spearheaded a campaign to have shots produced on the under-vaccinated continent, becoming its first and largest Covid vaccine manufacturer.
“International agencies that have had a lot of money donated to (them) for purchasing and procuring vaccines for developing-economy countries are not buying vaccines from African vaccine manufacturers, even for those vaccines that are destined for African countries,” Ramaphosa told a virtual global Covid summit.
“This, ladies and gentlemen, must change,” Ramaphosa said in his address to the second global Covid-19 summit chaired by US President Joe Biden.
South Africa’s pharma giant Aspen last week made the shock announcement that it has not received any orders for its new “made in Africa for Africa” anti-Covid vaccine licensed by US-based Johnson & Johnson, and threatened to close the production line unless it received orders.
Africa has a relatively low vaccination rate at around 15.8 percent and faces a new wave of the virus.
The World Health Organization on Thursday said southern Africa was seeing an upsurge in infections, reporting a 32 percent increase in cases last week compared to the previous week.
“Multilateral agencies and also philanthropic organisations need to be procuring vaccines… from African vaccine manufacturers to ensure the developing capabilities on the continent are retained,” said Ramaphosa.
“Vaccines produced in Africa must be procured in Africa and for Africa’s people. This is vital for the continent’s health security now and into the future,” he said.