The director-general, World Trade Organisation ( WTO), Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has said Africa needs to create a “roadmap” for boosting the continent’s capacity to eventually produce COVID-19 vaccines. The WTO DG said it has become an emergency as the continent lags in its efforts to vaccinate 60 per cent of its 1.3 billion.
Okonjo-Iweala raised this concern in Abuja, during her meeting with the country’s captains of industry that had the likes of Alhaji Aliko Dangote in attendance.
The WTO DG, who noted that African countries are getting vaccines from the international COVAX initiative and from donors like India, China and Russia, which are producing vaccines, argued that the continent’s dependence on imported vaccines may well be a hindrance to the inoculation drive as richer countries stockpile vaccines and prioritise their own populations – despite a surge in cases and a new variant affecting the continent.
The WTO DG also warned that access to poor-quality vaccines is worse than no access. She said the goal of local manufacturing must be to ensure quality, protect patients, and foster trust in vaccine safety.
“It’s so important for us to have that,” she said, referring to vaccine security.
According to her, to compound matters, without a stable supply, opportunities for substandard and falsified vaccines to enter the supply-chain may increase, diminishing trust in vaccines and health systems.
Okonjo -Iweala, further said African countries would need to have in place, the right systems and infrastructure to define the regulatory and ethical pathways for a quick approval of a candidate vaccine.
She said at this stage of the continent’s development, it can no longer continue depending on the West for vaccine supplies.