In April of this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) called for an Expression of Interest (EOI) to establish a coronavirus vaccine technology transfer hub to address the shortage of covid vaccines in low and middle-income countries.
As a result, WHO is now in talks with a South African consortium consisting of drug manufacturers such as Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines, Biovac, a network of universities and the African Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to establish the world’s first-ever covid vaccine technology transfer hub in Africa.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said of the announcement: “The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the full extent of the vaccine gap between developed and developing economies, and how that gap can severely undermine global health security. This landmark initiative is a major advance in the international effort to build vaccine development and manufacturing capacity that will put Africa on a path to self-determination. South Africa welcomes the opportunity to host a vaccine technology transfer hub and to build on the capacity and expertise that already exists on the continent to contribute to this effort.”
Though the new hub is not expected to have the ability to begin producing vaccines until next year, WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, believed this was a significant step in the right direction in addressing the vaccine inequality poorer countries face.
“This is great news, particularly for Africa, which has the least access to vaccines,” he said.
“COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of local production to address health emergencies, strengthen regional health security and expand sustainable access to health products.”
Speaking at a news conference in April, Dr Tedros, “There remains a shocking imbalance in the global distribution of vaccines”.
“On average in high-income countries, almost one in four people have received a Covid-19 vaccine. In low-income countries, it’s one in more than 500,” he said.
According to Africa CDC, there has been a reported 5,355,967 (26 June 2021) coronavirus cases on the continent, with South Africa accounting for 35 per cent of those cases at a reported 1,895,905 infections.