The 15-member Economic Community of West African States is planning to start manufacturing its own malaria and COVID-19 vaccines in Senegal, Nigeria and Ghana.
President Muhammadu Buhari in a statement had urged his counterparts in the region to push for self-reliance in manufacturing vaccines for the two diseases due to inequity in the distribution of vaccines in Africa.
He said Africa must join in the research and development of new products, especially in genomic sequencing, and also prepare both nationally and regionally for any eventual future pandemic or public health emergency that could occur.
The Malaria Journal warned in March this year that despite trends showing a reduction in malaria mortality rates in Africa generally and in the West African region in particular, mortality rates remain high in countries such as Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Niger, Mali, Ivory Coast, Ghana and Guinea.
This raises questions about the effectiveness of the fight against malaria in these countries.
The United Nations in September warned that just five African countries, or less than 10% of the continent’s 54 nations, are projected to hit the year-end target of fully vaccinating 40% of their people.
This comes as the region struggles to meet the rising demand for essential vaccination commodities such as syringes.
The UN said that over 143 million COVID vaccine doses have been received in Africa in total and 39 million people around just 3% of Africa’s population – are fully vaccinated.
In comparison, 52% of people are fully vaccinated in the US and 57% in the European Union.
The inequity is deeply disturbing. Just 2% of the over five billion doses given globally have been administered in Africa.