Arrangements are in top gear to establish a manufacturing plant for malaria and COVID-19 vaccines in Nigeria, Ghana and Senegal.

Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari has said the vaccine rate in Africa is well below global average, due to inequity in distribution and called on ECOWAS member countries to work towards self-sufficiency in manufacturing pharmaceuticals and vaccines.

Speaking at the ECOWAS Health Ministers’ conference, which ended yesterday in Abuja, Buhari urged ECOWAS member countries to work in solidarity and with a sense of purpose in their resolve to manage all phases of COVID-19 evolution.

He said Africa must join in the research and development of new products, especially in genomic sequencing and also prepare both nationally and regionally for any eventual future pandemic or public health emergency that could occur.

The President, represented by the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, stressed the need for ECOWAS region to embrace the global agenda of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) as a critical element that requires recommitment for increased people-centred investment in sustainable health development that strengthens health workforce, infrastructure and laboratory capacities within and across ECOWAS country borders, to diagnose and address the critical health issues of maternal, child, and adolescent health in the 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.”

He explained that the West African Health Organisation (WAHO) has continued to work for attainment of the highest possible standard and protection of health in West Africa through harmonisation of health policies of ECOWAS member states, pooling resources and cooperating with each other and with others, for a collective and strategic push against the health challenges of the sub-region.

“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,” he explained.

The Ghanaian Health Minister, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, who gave an update of the malaria vaccine, explained that the roll out of the long-awaited malaria vaccine would begin in Africa, including Nigeria next year.

He observed that the company to produce malaria vaccines would not be able to produce enough to vaccinate all children in West Africa for the first year.

“So, ECOWAS is working towards collaboration to ensure that we have a manufacturing plant in Africa that will produce malaria vaccines in Africa,” he said.

He explained that there is ongoing talk with GSK with regards to manufacturing of malaria vaccines in Africa. The President of the ECOWAS Commission Dr. Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, observed that public health challenges in the region are colossal and citizens’ expectations are very high.

(The Guardian)