Govt asked to commit more resources to produce vaccines locally

BY: Elizabeth Nyaadu Adu
Professor Gordon Awandare, the Director of West African Centre for Cell Biology
Professor Gordon Awandare, the Director of West African Centre for Cell Biology

The Director of West African Centre for Cell Biology, Professor Gordon Awandare, has said Ghana can be ready to manufacture vaccines if government shows more commitment and provides the required resources.

He explained that all the countries that had been able to develop and manufacture vaccines succeeded because they had resources such as funds and systems in place.

Prof Awandare said this at an event dubbed ‘The Future of Health Summit 2021’ in Accra last Wednesday. It was on the theme, “Fast Forward: Innovating for a better Future.”

“I will say that we can be ready because all the countries that have been able to make vaccines within one year is because they already had systems in place for developing and manufacturing vaccines and just had to reorganise those systems and plug-in new information to be able to make COVID vaccines,” he stated.

“So, we can be ready if the commitment is there and there is a national consciousness around it,” Prof. Awandare said.

He said the pandemic had given science a new stage in Africa, adding that “this misfortune has created an opportunity for African governments to give the needed attention to science and research.”

Looking within

For her part, the Executive Secretary of the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association of Ghana, Mrs Lucia Addae-Ntiri, said COVID-19 had taught the country that it was time to manufacture vaccines locally.

“We cannot keep relying on China and India because countries are now shutting their doors because they need to take care of their people and I think that it is time that we are given the opportunity to do the needful,” she noted.

She said to ensure that the country was able to manufacture vaccines locally, the needed funds should be provided with a guaranteed market and partnerships.

Becoming self sufficient

Meanwhile, the Presidential Advisor on health, Dr Anthony Nsiah-Asare, has said Ghana is doing well when it comes to vaccination and, therefore, that experience will be leveraged when establishing any point to do vaccines, bearing in mind that once all is set, the country will be competing with industry giants in the world, including India, from the same market.

“So if you ask me from where I sit I will say yes, we are ready. If you put your mind to something and you have the vision, you will achieve it. And if you dream big, you will get everything big and that’s exactly what the government is doing,” he said.

He said the government was fully aware of the need for the country to be self-sufficient as it looked at Ghana Beyond Aid, especially in vaccine development, hence the need to have the capacity, post-COVID, to produce not only Covid vaccines but vaccines for expanded global utilisation.

He said as announced by the President in his last address to the nation, ”the government, through the President, has committed $25 million as the start-up money for the country to have a national vaccine institute. We are working closely with external investors and I am happy to say that some people have already started helping a committee on the project for this ambitious agenda.”

He said with such a move, he was optimistic that in the next few years there would be a road map that would be followed.