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COVID-19 Vaccine production begins September in ECOWAS region

BY: Mary Anane-Amponsah
Prof. Stanley Okolo (left), Director-General, West Africa Health Organisation, explaining a point to Prof. Kwabena Frimpong Boateng (right), Chairman of the Vaccine Manufacturing Committee, and Dr Anthony Nsiah-Asare (2nd from right), Presidential Advisor on Health, after the meeting. Looking on are other participants. Picture: EDNA SALVO-KOTEY
Prof. Stanley Okolo (left), Director-General, West Africa Health Organisation, explaining a point to Prof. Kwabena Frimpong Boateng (right), Chairman of the Vaccine Manufacturing Committee, and Dr Anthony Nsiah-Asare (2nd from right), Presidential Advisor on Health, after the meeting. Looking on are other participants. Picture: EDNA SALVO-KOTEY

The Director-General of the West African Health Organisation (WAHO), Professor Stanley Okolo, has said members of ECOWAS are collaborating to commence the manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines by September, 2022.

Five manufacturers in Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal have been selected to lead in the production of the about 370 million vaccines which are needed in the sub-region.

The project will be carried out at a cost of $122 million within a five-year period.

In view of this WAHO, in collaboration with the Africa Centre for Disease Control (CDC), is holding a high-level meeting with vaccine manufacturers in the sub-region in Accra to develop a framework for the producers to support each other to build the regional hub.

The two-day meeting will discuss issues such as how individual manufacturers can identify particular vaccines of interest in order to produce and build the scientific capacity of relevance on vaccine development and other related activities such as strengthening the supply and distribution channels and cold chain systems in the region.

Among participants in the meeting are the Chairman,Vaccine Manufacturing Committee, Prof. Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, and the Presidential Advisor on Health, Dr Anthony Nsiah-Asare.

Cases

Prof. Okolo said West Africa had continuously seen an increase in cases of COVID-19 in the past two years, recording 837,442 cases and 11,348 deaths as of May 1, 2022.

The region also received 179,122,060 doses of vaccine from COVAX and other donors, with 92,947,620 doses administered, while 16 per cent have fully been vaccinated per a 100 people.

He, however, said the region would require 377,525,150 additional doses of vaccines to reach the desired 70 per cent vaccination coverage.

“We have the rudiments and building blocks ready,” the D-G said, and called on member states to collaborate with one another to achieve the ultimate objective.

According to Prof. Okolo, there was harmonisation of regulations “so that you do not have to go through 15 different countries to register a medicine”.

He said there would be a central platform where the producers could sell their registered products to 400 million people in the region.

Prof. Okolo further said that the region would invest heavily in research, especially in pandemics, adding that the region last year recorded 40 outbreaks of epidemic-prone diseases.

Determination

The ECOWAS Commissioner for Industry and Private Sector Promotion, Mamadou Traore, said with the needed political will and working in synergy with partners, the region could achieve its goal of establishing a vaccine manufacturing hub, stressing “all are not safe until everybody is safe”.

The Managing Director of DEK Vaccines, one of the selected manufacturers in Ghana, Kofi Nsiah Poku, gave the assurance that locally produced vaccines would soon be available for use in the country.

“We will hit the ground by July, 2022, and in 12 months put up the facility and start with the trials. We will make sure that in 2024 the first COVID-19 vaccine would be produced in Ghana and supplied to the rest of Africa,” he said.