By Iyemah David
The 15 West African states require 370 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to meet the 70 percent of the vaccination target of the sub-region.
The Director-General of the West Africa Health Organisation (WAHO), Professor Stanley Okolo stated this on the sidelines of the High-level Meeting with vaccines Manufacturers in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
He, however appealed to the manufacturers to openly share their knowledge and expertise and effectively collaborate with one another to achieve the expected breakthrough in vaccine manufacturing in Africa.
Okolo said one important aim of WAHO was obtaining the political will and the go-ahead of ECOWAS Council of Heads of States and Governments to bring together manufacturers, partners, external collaborators and regulators to advance the manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines.
“Some of the things we have done on the health side is the harmonisation of the regulations so that you don’t have to go through 15 different countries in order to register a medicine, but you go to a central platform,” he added.
Dr Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Director for Africa, in a speech read on her behalf, pledged her office’s commitment to support ECOWAS.
“We want to confirm the commitment of WHO regional office for West Africa, in collaboration with WHO headquarters, our great commitment to support member states to strength capacity for local production in the region and support member states,” she disclosed.
Moeti said that the COVID-19 pandemic laid bare the over-reliance of low- and middle-income countries on donations from rich nations.
Also speaking, Prof Kwabena Frimpong Boateng, Chairman of the Presidential Vaccines Committee, said Ghana was working closely with Rwanda and Senegal in the development of the COVID-19 vaccines, which is expected soon in the country for packaging and distribution for commercial use by 2024.
Boateny highlighted some of Ghana’s progress regarding its vaccine development efforts, citing the expected completion of the National Vaccines Institute infrastructure by the third quarter of 2022 to coordinate the development and manufacturing of vaccines.
Amongst others, he said include strengthening collaboration between existing research capacity enhancement of the Food and Drugs Authority to attain International Standard Organisation Level Four of its laboratory performance.
“The enhancement of human resource capacity base for research, management of manufacturing plants, as well as stakeholder engagements for the effective support of government efforts.
“By building continental or regional manufacturing capabilities, WAHO hopes to boost pandemic preparedness and strengthen the response to future outbreaks,” he said.
It would be recall that as part of the programme for the meeting, WAHO hopes to find out how manufacturers will identify particular vaccines of interest to produce.
Also, up for discussion will be the engagement of contract clinical research organisations (CROs) and technology platform of high yield, high-quality product using the most cost-effective methodologies available, as well as clinical trial centres.
Given the urgency in the region and vulnerability of ECOWAS population to the COVID-19 pandemics and other diseases, the ECOWAS Commission and the West AFRICA Health Organisation under the decision of the ECOWAS Authorities of Heads of States have pledged their support for the establishment of a robust vaccine production capacity in the ECOWAS region.