Africa must work towards attaining vaccine sufficiency through production – Health Minister
Ghana’s Health Minister Kwaku Agyeman-Manu has called on health professionals within Africa to overcome all roadblocks and intensify efforts at achieving vaccine sufficiency through production.
Health Minister Kwaku Agyeman-Manu speaking in a speech read on behalf his by Deputy Health Minister Tina Fifty Naa Ayeley Mensah at CelebrateLab West Africa Conference in Accra-Ghana on Wednesday April 20, said “Africa and the West Africa sub-region must work towards attaining Vaccine sufficiency through production. The current system in which securing access to Vaccines is based on advance purchase agreements, incentives of intellectual property, and vaccine delivery is continuously determined by economic power, production capacity and competition rather public health needs must be reviewed in order not to relegate Lower-and-Middle-income countries to bottom of the access list as it is not sustainable mechanism. A situation where Africa produces on barely 1% of its vaccine needs is not acceptable. It is to this end that the Government of Ghana has established a Vaccine Production Committee with a Policy approved by Cabinet and the Bill to establish a Vaccine Institute is underway”.
According to Health Minister Agyeman-Manu, “Ghana is in partnership with Senegal and Rwanda in our vaccine sufficiency agenda. With 25 million dollars from the Government of Ghana as a seed money, funding support of 5million Euros from the German Development Cooperation and support from other Development Partners has been secured to take the process forward. A private sector led consortium plant is expected to be fully operational by January 2024 to produce the country’s first COVID-19 vaccines as part of a 10-year roadmap to make Ghana self-sufficient in vaccine production, not only COVID 19 vaccines, to meet national and regional needs”.
For the Health Minister, “capacities for Vaccine Production must be kept in view. The need to produce quality vaccines and medicines are strategic. Medical equipment and commodities and building and strengthening supply chains to deliver vaccines, medicines, and equipment efficiently are very important. Finally, the need to work towards vaccine hesitancy by the population must be addressed as well”.
Apart from that, misconceptions and myths about Covid-19 have been spreading in Africa through social media, fueling mistrust for vaccines meant to protect many against the infectious pandemic. Even some opinion leaders and prominent influencers have been peddling fake news.The battle against infectious Covid-19 pandemic has lingered on for almost two years amid the influx of new variants including Delta, Omicron among others. In Africa, the battle remains a daunting task.
World Health Organization (WHO) had set a year-end target for each African country to fully vaccinate 40% of their population, but that goal has hardly been achieved. A negligible number of seven out of 54 countries on the continent have reached the 40% target, according to the WHO. That translates into about 9% of Africans being fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
Many African countries have been unable to vaccinate the majority of their people because of a lack of doses. Even more worrying, though, is the high level of vaccine hesitancy. It is important to anchor the point that, Government of Ghana’s target to vaccinate 20 million Ghanaians in 2021 has not been achieved.
Meanwhile, Director-General of Ghana Standard Authority (GSA) Prof. Alexander Dodoo in a speech read on his behalf wants laboratories to be prepared to handle sudden increases in demand in infectious diseases. According to him, developing quick, reliable, best-in-class diagnostic solutions across the infectious disease landscape to assist laboratories will ensure diagnostic capability.
He noted that “How do we achieve this?
This will not be achievable (possible) unless standards are adopted and implemented, example ISO 15189:2012 – Medical Laboratories – Requirement for quality and competence. In view of the importance, GSA and Ghana Health Science has adopted this as a national standards and we know that only few laboratories are have implementing it. GSA is ready to help any laboratory that is ready to implement it”.
According to Prof. Dodoo, “These standards are intended to ensure:
• Safety, quality and reliability/ dependability of services;
• Competence of service providers;
• Eliminate biases and impartiality;
• Promote and protect the economic interest of citizens and intended end-users.
Quality infrastructure of laboratory is key in the early detection of outbreaks in the health sector. This help in the combating various disease in the world, hence there is the emergency need for the various country to invest in this area by allocating a percentage of the nation income for that purpose”.
As Ghana begins next phase of Covid-19 vaccination on Thursday April 20, 2022, Ghana Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists wants Ghana Health Service and other stakeholders to intensify sensitisation programme to avoid covid-19 vaccine hesitancy in order to achieve national target.