COVID-19: Africa CDC, health professionals to discuss vaccine accessibility, development

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Director, Africa CDC, Dr. John Nkengsong

The 2-day meeting of Africa Centre for Disease Control (CDC) which kick-started on Wednesday, June 24, brought together African leaders, public health professionals, policymakers, the media, civil society, community leaders, private sector representatives, pharmaceutical industry experts, and partners to discuss a roadmap for the development of safe, efficacious, affordable, equitable and accessible COVID-19 vaccine in Africa, with the involvement of Africans.

H.E. President Cyril Ramaphosa, Chairperson of the African Union and President of the Republic of South Africa opened the conference.

He noted the need for strong partnerships, cooperation and a sense of urgency among Africans in finding a suitable vaccine against the COVID-19.

He emphasized the need to manufacture vaccines in Africa with raw materials sourced from Africa.

He said: “Success in developing and providing access to a safe vaccine requires an innovative and collaborative approach, with significant local manufacturing in Africa.

We need to support the contribution of African scientists and healthcare professionals. We need to act with urgency.”

Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization, highlighted several actions taken by the WHO to support response to COVID-19 pandemic in Africa.

He noted the significant disruptions to routine public health services across Africa as a result of COVID-19, including services like immunization, family planning, antenatal care, treatment for mental health disorders, malaria, and HIV.

Dr. Nkengasong, Director of Africa CDC, noted in his opening presentation that the onset of COVID-19 pandemic was delayed in Africa but the number of cases and deaths is increasing rapidly every day.

He said: “Africa needs to be careful and prepare for a rise in the number of cases, as already observed in Latin America after easing of lockdowns.

The availability of a vaccine is the only solution that would allow the Member States to return to a fully functional economy.”

Nkengasong highlighted two strategies for vaccine development and access: securing sufficient vaccine supplies and removing barriers to vaccine rollout.

These he said would require mobilizing financial capital to purchase enough vaccines, ensuring appropriate distribution, and manufacturing, including, enabling technology transfer to rapidly scale-up local manufacturing capacity on the continent.

Suzan O