The Chairman of the ECOWAS Commission, Dr Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, has proposed the establishment of a major laboratory in the sub-region that would enable member countries to produce vaccines to deal with emerging diseases and viruses.
He said there was also the need for West African leaders to take lessons from the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic by instituting pro-active measures that would prevent diseases from spreading by equipping and supporting their scientists.
Dr Kassi Brou made the proposals in an interview with journalists in Accra last Thursday after visiting the new office of the ECOWAS Regional Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERERA) in Accra.
ERERA is the regional regulator for cross-border electricity interconnections in West Africa.
Its general mission is to regulate cross-border electricity exchanges between ECOWAS member states, while overseeing the implementation of necessary conditions to ensure rationalisation and reliability, and also contribute to the setting up of a regulatory and economic environment suitable for the development of a regional market.
Dr Brou said vaccine discovery and production cost lots of money and, therefore, would be appropriate for the entire West African sub-region to pool resources to embark on such a venture.
“I say collectively because we have a better chance to succeed in doing so. You know developing a vaccine costs a lot of resources, having the capacity to produce them also costs a lot of resources, so each country can do it, yes, but it’s going to cost a lot. However, if we share it by working together, find ways to do it collectively, it becomes more manageable,” he added.
According to him, having a standard laboratory in the region to discover and produce vaccines was a challenge that ought to be addressed collectively by ECOWAS member states.
“We have to invest in research to develop our capacity as a region to have labs that are going to be able to produce vaccines—so we could discover vaccines, produce vaccines when there are specific threats,” Dr Brou said.
Establishment of mechanisms
Dr Brou further emphasised the need for the sub-region to establish mechanisms that would be able to identify threat of disease outbreaks and also build the capacity of various health agencies, bureaus and offices to be able to respond when diseases do emerge.
“ECOWAS as a regional bloc would encourage and foster the spirit of working together to address specific issues that affect us all because a virus does not know borders,” he said.
Dr Brou commended the government for taking proactive steps to contain the spread of COVID-19 while expressing appreciation to ERERA for the role it plays in helping to address the energy challenges in the ECOWAS region.
The Chairman of ERERA, Professor Honore Bogler, also thanked the government and Dr Brou for his visit to its staff in the country and for the cooperation and support received so far in Ghana.