Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, and Tunisia were the first African countries to receive, with the assistance of the World Health Organization (WHO), the technology needed to produce mRNA vaccines.
The decision was announced by World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus in Brussels on February 18 at the European Union-African Union summit.
“The best way to address health emergencies and reach universal health coverage is to significantly increase the capacity of all regions to manufacture the health products they need,”
said Tedros Ghebreyesus.
To date, more than 80% of the population of the African continent has not yet received a single dose of the COVID vaccine. As the head of the WHO said, this is partly because their production is concentrated in a few high-income countries.
The global mRNA technology transfer hub was established in 2021 to support manufacturers in low- and middle-income countries to produce their own vaccines, ensuring that they have all the necessary operating procedures and know-how to manufacture mRNA vaccines at scale and according to international standards.
WHO, together with its partners, will help the six selected countries train specialists, strengthen regulatory frameworks, and get vaccine production underway as quickly as possible.
WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus said:
“No other event like the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that reliance on a few companies to supply global public goods is limiting, and dangerous.”
President Cyril Ramaphosa, of South Africa said:
"This is an initiative that will allow us to make our own vaccines and that, to us, is very important. It means mutual respect, mutual recognition of what we can all bring to the party, investment in our economies, infrastructure investment and, in many ways, giving back to the continent."
The initial effort is centred on mRNA technologies and biologicals, which are important for vaccine manufacturing and can also be used for other products, such as insulin to treat diabetes, cancer medicines and, potentially, vaccines for other priority diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV. The ultimate goal is to extend capacity building for national and regional production to all health technologies.