Senegal will host Africa’s first full-service vaccine manufacturing plant, after the Pasteur Institute in Dakar and the European Investment Bank (EIB) announced an $80 million financing deal to respond to diseases on the continent.
The new facility, dubbed Madiba (Made in Africa for Disease Vaccination and Building Autonomy) will be built in Diamniadio, a city and special economic zone strategically located 37 kilometers from Dakar, Senegal’s capital. It will be Africa’s first high-volume vaccine production site and fills a need that has become apparent as the continent struggles to vaccinate its population against covid.
When the new facility is operating at full capacity, it will be able to produce up to 300 million doses of vaccine each year for the continent, which is currently 99% dependent on vaccine imports. The plant will also be a training site for the production of new generation vaccines.
Dr Amadou Sall, director of the Pasteur Institute in Dakar, says current vaccine manufacturing is too centralized in some parts of the world and that it is “essential to create decentralized vaccine manufacturing capacity to address this imbalance. “, which could also create new job opportunities for thousands of young Africans. EIB Vice-President Ambroise Fayolle said the new facility “will contribute to greater autonomy in the production and distribution of essential vaccines”.
Africa’s dependence on vaccine imports
Covid-19 has proven to be a crucial example of the limitations of vaccines in Africa. In January and February, the uptake of the covid vaccine on the continent increased by 15%, but in March, 15 countries had still not vaccinated 10% of their population, and 21 countries had only vaccinated between 10% and 19% of their population. populations, according to the World Health Organization. To date, only the African island countries of Mauritius and Seychelles have exceeded 70% vaccination coverage.
“No one is safe until everyone is safe,” said Irène Mingasson, head of the EU delegation to Senegal. “So we need to work together to ensure equal access to vaccines around the world.”
As it stands, most African countries source vaccines from UNICEF through the Gavi Vaccine Alliance, but only a few countries can source vaccines sustainably.
Africa’s biggest vaccine maker, South Africa-based Aspen, has produced around 180 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, but said last month it would halt production. There are also production plants in Egypt, Morocco, Senegal, South Africa, Ethiopia and Tunisia, but all have limited manufacturing capacity and only handle the very last stages of labeling and packaging. ‘packaging.
There are other signs of production progress as well. The African Continental Free Trade Area, the African Medicines Agency and the Framework for Action are all involved in technology transfer partnerships with companies like Biovac in South Africa, the Pasteur Institute in Morocco, the government of Ghana and Innovative Biotech in Nigeria. In March, the American company Moderna, one of the pioneers of mRNA vaccines against covid, signed a memorandum of understanding with the Kenyan government to establish the first mRNA manufacturing plant in Africa.
But increasing vaccine manufacturing capacity is only half the battle, notes David Walwyn, a professor at the University of Pretoria who teaches technology management. “To make a vaccine, you need intellectual property as well as know-how,” Walwyn notes in the World Intellectual Property Organization magazine. “The operation will require the establishment of a regulatory drug approval system and a quality assurance system that will be able to certify each production batch.”