To fight injustice, Africa wants to produce its own vaccines. First, you need to find buyers.

But no orders came.

By that time the agreement was signed in Marchmany African countries couldn’t keep up with the number of vaccines flowing in from richer countries and COVAX, the global vaccine business.

Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot vaccine, which many health experts had hoped would make it easier for people in hard-to-reach areas to get vaccinated, fell out of favor after drug regulators in Europe and the US confirmed a link between the vaccine and a rare disease. but serious side effects of blood clotting.

Aspen Pharmacare’s challenges highlight some of the hurdles the continent must overcome to become self-sufficient in vaccine production and not fall victim to vaccine injustice again.

Africa aims to produce 1.5 billion doses of vaccine by 2040 to meet 60 percent of the continent’s needs, compared to less than 1 percent it meets today. According to the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20 year plan cost $30 billion. There are 20 expansion initiatives, including plans by BioNTech and Moderna to build facilities in Kenya, Rwanda and Senegal.

But “if you don’t meet your obligations at first base, it doesn’t instill much confidence going forward,” Stavros Nicolaou, Aspen Pharmacare’s senior group executive for strategic trade development, told POLITICO.

To make Africa less dependent on others for vaccine production, governments and international donors must be prepared to pay higher prices for African-made vaccines, experts and pharmaceutical industry officials say.

“If it’s an existing product that’s already being made in India and China, then the price is going to be tough,” said Sai Prasad, chairman of the Developing World Vaccine Manufacturers Network, which includes African members.

This is because the vaccines produced in the two countries are produced in high volumes and can cost as little as $1 per shot. African producers will not be able to compete with such prices, at least initially, because their production costs are higher, Prasad said.

But buyers will pay more for vaccines made in Africa if they are new or not made elsewhere, he added.

Right choice

That’s why choosing what to produce in Africa is so important, Prasad said.

The inequality that African countries have experienced in receiving Covid-19 vaccinations is the reason for the drive to increase vaccine production in Africa. But these are not the vaccines that vaccine manufacturers on the continent should be focusing on. Gavi analysisthe Vaccine Union, which negotiates vaccine prices for the poorest countries, many of which are in Africa.

Additional suppliers are needed for measles, rubella, cholera and malaria vaccines, as well as emergency supplies of yellow fever and Ebola vaccines, Gavi said. In the future, potential vaccines for diseases that affect Africa, such as dengue, chikungunya or Zika, could also be produced on the continent, he said.

Gavi was under pressure from African leaders buy African-made vaccines, including Covid vaccines for Africans. The World Health Organization has said it will develop a plan to buy more African-made vaccines by December. Meanwhile, he warned that African countries eligible for Gavi’s support will also need to select locally produced vaccines that “meet quality and value for money criteria” when they become available through Gavi.

For his part, Aspen’s Nicolau does not blame the Johnson & Johnson vaccine his company has chosen for the lack of demand. On safety issues, he said data from one of South Africa’s largest vaccine trials showed only a handful of rare side effects of blood clotting, none of which were fatal.

He said political leaders and global health agencies need to re-stimulate demand for a Covid-19 vaccine that has fallen globally even as Africa remains the least vaccinated continent, with only one in five of more than 1 billion people immunized. against this disease.

Nicolau is hoping African and COVAX governments will place orders for vaccines as new waves of infections caused by Omicron sub-variants begin to sweep the world.

Otherwise, his company will soon have to decide whether to shut down its vaccine production lines and return to producing anesthetics instead.

This is a lesson for wider vaccine production efforts in Africa.

“Ultimately it will be a matter of aligning demand with where the various suppliers are located,” said Nicole Lurie, Executive Director of Preparedness and Response for the Epidemic Preparedness and Innovation Coalition in Oslo, Norway. works in the field of research and development of vaccines against emerging infectious diseases.

“There has been a lot of focus on building factories, but so far little attention has been paid to expanding the market,” she said. “I think the name of the game will be the new market for new vaccines and who can make those vaccines and who needs them.”

She added that the new vaccines could be against tuberculosis and malaria, which would be in much greater demand in Africa than in richer countries.

Another way to expand the market is to focus on vaccines for adults as well as children, said Thomas Kueny, CEO of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations.

Get richer and pay for injections

One thing is clear: African governments will have to pay for the vaccines themselves, rather than relying on donor organizations like Gavi, to kickstart vaccine production.

“Donor buying rightfully aims for maximum concentration, and therefore the lowest prices, so that with your dollar, you can reach and treat as many people as possible,” said Holm Keller, chairman of the vaccine fund kENUP. efforts to expand production in Africa.

“In order to achieve true fairness, we must produce products locally at prices that are acceptable to the local economy,” he said.

In some countries that are still dependent on Gavi for vaccine purchases, their national income is expected to rise slightly due to economic development, allowing them to better pay for their own vaccines.

Senegal is one of them. This is also the location growing regional manufacturing center for Covid-19 vaccines and other vaccinations located at the Pasteur Institute in Dakar, which manufactures yellow fever vaccines.

The plan is to expand yellow fever vaccine production, produce a variety of Covid-19 vaccines, including those based on mRNA technology, and invest in research and development for other diseases, said Joe Fitchett, senior adviser at the institute.

He sees the continent’s economic development and population growth as an opportunity for local vaccine manufacturers.

“Either you have existing manufacturers expanding capacity to meet every child’s protection demand, or you have room for new manufacturers to prepare to serve this market by 2040,” Fitchett said.