• Tuesday, June 18, 2024
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Vaccine manufacturing in Africa – strategies to achieve the 2040 vision

Gates gives $40m to expand mRNA vaccine access in Nigeria, others — Reuters

The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) has set an ambitious target to manufacture 60% of Africa’s routine vaccine needs by 2040. The African Union and Africa CDC therefore launched Partnerships for African Vaccine Manufacturing (PAVM), planning an investment of $1.3Bn to develop the vaccine industry on the continent. Considering this, concerted efforts are being made by the Africa CDC to translate this ambitious 2040 goal into a strategic roadmap with workable solutions for the development of vaccine manufacturing in Africa.

In recent years, the impact of Covid-19 and Africa-specific outbreaks have resulted in increasing conversations among African and global public health leaders on the need for Africa to become self-reliant by providing its own vaccine supplies. Other factors have also contributed to this sense of urgency. One factor is the strong rise in demand for vaccines, as the African population continues to grow rapidly despite persisting gaps in immunisation coverage.

New technologies have led to a growing economics in support of local vaccine manufacturing. In the last few years, fast pace technology innovations, such as small scale disposable technologies, high-density bioreactors, and innovation in fill-and-finish, seen at every step of the bio-manufacturing workflow, are reducing vaccine production costs. Another critical factor is the deepening political and regulatory support. The last few years have seen an increase in political commitments in steering the local vaccine manufacturing agenda. Continental initiatives, such as AfCFTA and integration of vaccine markets across the continent, are improving.

There is a need for more vaccines to be sourced from Africa by advocating and ensuring a percentage of African procurement through long-term contracts, leveraging on the public and private sectors

Current state of vaccine manufacturing in Africa

At present, Africa imports 99% of its vaccine supplies, locally manufacturing only approximately 1%. Globally, Gavi plays a key role in public vaccine procurement in developing countries, and currently supports 40 African countries. The Gavi/UNICEF Supply Division plays a crucial role in the African vaccine landscape, financing and procuring about two-thirds of Africa’s total market value.

Routine vaccine products are majorly supplied by Indian Developing Countries Vaccine Manufacturers (DCVMs), with Serum Institute of India (SII) currently supplying almost half of Gavi’s vaccines in Africa. At present, there are 10 vaccine manufacturing players in Africa.

The Institut Pasteur Dakar, Senegal supplied 1.6mn doses of Yellow Fever vaccine in 2019. However, that constituted only about 2% of the market volume. However, opportunities exist for African vaccine manufacturers to expand along the value chain into drug substance (DS) manufacturing. Some vaccine production projects linked to manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines have been announced on the continent. Rwanda is also working with partners to establish the first mRNA manufacturing facility in Africa.

African Union’s 2040 vision – impact and benefits for the continent

The Africa CDC vision to manufacture 60% of Africa’s routine vaccine needs by 2040, if achieved, holds tremendous benefits for Africa. This would improve self reliance and ensure a sustainable supply of vaccines, as well as increase preparedness for outbreak response. It would also stimulate research and ensure the production of vaccines that address Africa-specific diseases, taking into consideration the local context.

Strategies to achieve the African Union’s 2040 vision

The achievement of this vision requires the commitment of key stakeholders, including governments, manufacturers, national regulatory authorities, and funders, for implementing bold strategies that are Africa-led with support from the global system. There is, therefore, an urgent need for a coordinated approach that builds upon and expands the work already done by countries across Africa.

In the light of this, Bloom Public Health proposes the following as key strategies to achieve the African Union’s 2040 vision:

1. Infrastructural development: Long-term investment in the expansion of existing vaccine manufacturing facilities and R&D laboratory capacity through direct lending and/or equity is essential. There is also a need to establish modular and flexible manufacturing capacity for new plants. The development of vaccine hubs in selected countries with provision of policy, institutional and regulatory support will propel infrastructural development. To achieve this, African financiers must drive financing with international support from funders. It is estimated that reaching the goal of 60% of African demand produced locally in 2040 would cost about $600Mn to $1.2Bn. Hence, the need to build strong business cases for vaccine products.

2. Confirmation of demand certainty: The establishment of a pooled procurement mechanism and securing offtake agreements from key markets for locally produced vaccines will encourage vaccine production by African manufacturers. There is a need for more vaccines to be sourced from Africa by advocating and ensuring a percentage of African procurement through long-term contracts, leveraging on the public and private sectors.

3. Know-how and talent development: Africa currently faces a scarcity of vaccine development and manufacturing know-how. Hence, the need to support homegrown talent development and increase know-how across the value chain (e.g. drug substance and manufacturing R&D). To achieve this, Bloom Public Health is currently working on the establishment of an African Vaccine Academy (AVA). This is an African-wide initiative implemented by Bloom Public Health and its technical partner, Biotech Training Facility, Leiden, Netherlands, to strengthen Africa’s pharmaceutical sector for sustainable local vaccine manufacturing.

In conclusion, the journey towards achieving the African Union’s 2040 vision is an ambitious one that will strengthen and build more resilient health systems for current and future generations in Africa. Concerted effort from all stakeholders is therefore essential to tackle the existing issues in Africa’s vaccine industry to create the continent we desire.