Friday, 13 May 2022

Pretoria: President Cyril Ramaphosa has called on global agencies to assist in boosting the local manufacturing and production of COVID-19 vaccines by procuring vaccines and boosters from African manufacturers.

The President was speaking in his capacity as the AU Champion for COVID-19 Response on Thursday at the second Global Summit on COVID-19.

The continent’s largest COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing plant opened in South Africa last year, and mRNA hubs for tech transfer have been opened in South Africa, Egypt, Senegal, Tunisia, Kenya and Nigeria.

In February the AU Summit endorsed a common agenda for manufacturing vaccines, medicines, diagnostics, therapeutics and health products on the continent.

However, the President said that this progress may be reversed because international agencies are not buying vaccines from Africa, even those destined for African countries.

“This must change. Multilateral agencies and philanthropists need to be procuring vaccines and boosters from African manufacturers to ensure the developing capabilities on the continent are retained,” he said.

President Ramaphosa further called on the international community to ensure that solidarity and equity underpin the next phase in the world’s management of the pandemic.

“This means that vaccines produced in Africa must be procured for Africa’s people. This is vital for the continent’s health security now and into the future,” he said.

Low vaccination rates

To avoid a return to the catastrophic early days of the pandemic, President Ramaphosa said that there is a need to get many more people across the world vaccinated.

“We need to expand access to testing and treatment. The global health recovery will not be inclusive so long as millions of people in developing economies remain unvaccinated.

“Africa has one of the world’s lowest vaccination rates at 16%, and coverage in low income countries is still under 13%,” the President said.

President Ramaphosa emphasised that African leaders are committed to achieving 70% vaccine coverage through mass campaigns across the continent.

He further said they continue to advocate for Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) waiver in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to improve global access to vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics.

“To get more life-saving vaccines to those in need, South Africa is donating five million doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 10 million doses of the J&J vaccine to other African countries.

“South Africa has contributed $10 million to the Global Fund and plans to contribute financial support to the ACT-Accelerator,” he said.

Speaking on the low COVID-19 testing rates, President Ramaphosa said that African Union (AU) member states have committed to a target of 200 million SARS-COV-2 tests by the end of 2022.

This commitment will be coupled with the implementation of the Africa CDC’s Enhanced Surveillance Strategy for community-based testing, wastewater testing and sentinel surveillance.

The President said countries need to be better prepared for future health crises and generate the financing to do so.

The international community is working towards a swift social and economic recovery, but the threat of new waves and the emergence of new variants is ever-present.

“South Africa therefore supports the formation of the Financial Intermediary Fund as a mechanism to finance global health security.” he said.