There are usually tons of controversies that trail most of the vaccines shipped to Africa. The one on the front burner at the moment is the COVID-19 vaccine. Many have rejected the vaccine saying it is a ploy to decimate Africa’s population. To deal with this problem the United States and other foreign partners have given out millions of dollars to the Institut Pasteur in Dakar, Senegal.
The institute was opened on November 14, 1888, to promote research and knowledge-sharing on infectious diseases. Up until now, it focused on the production of yellow fever vaccines, leading to an elimination of the disease in most parts of sub-Saharan Africa. At the moment Africa imports 99% of its vaccine. According to David Marchick, chief operating officer of the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation the goal is to,
“Support these companies so they can make vaccines, not only COVID vaccines but other vaccines, in Africa for Africa. This will not only help to end the pandemic but also build capacity to deal with future health challenges.”
Africa’s Vaccine Problems
Erecting vaccine production facilities in Africa is important. It will shorten the response time for future disease outbreaks. For example, after the discovery of the COVID-19 vaccines, Africa had to wait for weeks to get the vaccine. Today, while richer nations are giving a third shot to their citizens, a large number of Africans are yet to get one.
Another major challenge with importing vaccines is that they are usually time and temperature-sensitive. So, in a number of cases, vaccines reach Africa close to their expiration date or when they are no longer viable because of poor handling. But will a vaccine made in Africa by Africans reduce vaccine hesitancy?
Support for Vaccine production in Africa
African Union and Africa CDC chose the Senegal-based foundation to utilize its more than eighty years of experience in developing vaccines. Consequently, the institute has been receiving funding to help it actualize that goal. The support comes from the United States International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), European partners, and local Senegalese organizations.
United States DFC tops the list of donors with a charity of over $3.5 million. The U.S Secretary of States Anthony Blinken made it clear that this was part of a $16 million commitment by the entire group of funders. According to Marchick, the United States will also provide technical support to the institute in addition to the nation’s financial commitment. The goal is for Senegal to eventually start exporting vaccines to other countries.
Will an African Vaccine make any difference?
Setting up a vaccine production facility requires highly-specialized technology and skill. As a result, all of the six factories available in Africa, including Pasteur Institute, are technology transfer models. They are located in Egypt, Morroco, South Africa, and Tunisia, and they receive their production technology from a facility known as a technology hub.
Pasteur Institute will use its funding to acquire the technology necessary to produce a new variety of vaccines, for example, the COVID-19 vaccine. The institute will also hire skilled operators and professionals to complement this goal. Also, the institute’s funding will be used is in sponsoring research into vaccines particularly relevant to the African people. According to Blinken, this effort will facilitate the WHO’s goal of vaccinating at least 70% of the global population against COVID-19 by 2022.
So, will a vaccine produced in Africa make any difference? Certainly. With the Pasteur Institute behind new products, Africa will have a familiar face to relate to. This will likely increase the number of vaccinations from the current 10% and improve the response time to new infections. Again, producing vaccines in Africa will increase technological skill development, improve research participation, and even provide job opportunities.