a summit in Paris to create a $1 billion fund

A child receives an injection of malaria vaccine at the Kimogoi dispensary in Gisambai, Kenya, March 7, 2023. YASUYOSHI CHIBA / AFP

Gather “more than a billion dollars” to accelerate the African manufacturing of vaccines. This is the ambition displayed by France, organizer with the African Union (AU) and GAVI the Vaccine Alliance, of the Global Forum for Vaccine Sovereignty and Innovation which is to be held on Thursday June 20 in Paris.

The meeting will bring together at the headquarters of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs several African heads of state, around twenty ministers of health from the continent, Asia and Latin America, the director of the World Health Organization (WHO ), but also heavyweights in the pharmaceutical industry.

On this occasion, a new innovative financial mechanism called the African Vaccine Manufacturing Accelerator (AVMA) must officially be launched to provide African countries with the means for vaccine independence. The plan is to produce 60% of the doses they will need by 2040.

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The Covid-19 crisis and the failures of the Covax international assistance mechanism had revealed the extreme dependence of fifty-four African countries on foreign manufacturers who supply them with more than 98% of the vaccines that the continent consumes.

“We don’t want to relive what we went through with India again, explains Jean Kaseya, head of the Africa CDC, the AU’s African public health agency. When the Omicron wave swept across the country in 2022, the Serum Institute of India, from which African countries had ordered millions of doses of anti-Covid vaccines, suspended its deliveries to first serve the Indian population. »

“Health sovereignty in Africa”

To contribute to the AVMA fund, the Elysée announced the contribution, “for three quarters”, of the European Union, France, Germany and Italy in the lead. Added to that of the United States, Canada, South Korea and Japan, the total should “exceed a billion dollars” (some 930 million euros), promises Paris, made available over the next ten years in order to develop African manufacturing capacity.

Several manufacturers already active on or for the continent, “who are intended to cooperate”, according to the Elysée, will make the trip such as Biovac and Aspen (South Africa), EuBiologics (South Korea), the Pasteur Institute of Dakar in particular. The French Sanofi should make an important announcement.

Emmanuel Macron will meet with his Rwandan, Senegalese, Ghanaian and Botswanan counterparts, as well as with the President of the African Union, Moussa Faki Mahamat, “to take stock of the health sovereignty agenda in Africa” and mention some “crises that are still shaking the continent”including the war in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and that in Sudan.

Read also | Fight against malaria: Africa at a “turning point” thanks to the deployment of the new vaccine

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Malaria, for which two vaccines have been being deployed since 2023, and the cholera crisis, which continues to spread throughout the east of the continent, will also be on the Forum’s menu. While countries where vibrio is prevalent due to poor sanitation infrastructure and population movements “records” according to the UN, where the effects of climate change are faced with a global shortage of anti-cholera vaccines, “specific announcements will be made”insisted the Elysée.

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The summit should also be an opportunity for GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, the main international solidarity actor which supports low-income countries in the purchase of quality vaccines at attractive prices, to launch its campaign to replenish its resources. to carry out its 2026-2030 program.

“There is no shortage of challenges”

“We are going through a financially turbulent period, explains Marie-Ange Saraka-Yao, general director of resource mobilization and growth at GAVI, and there is no shortage of challenges: cholera, Ebola, yellow fever, malaria… These epidemics are not just the problem of the South. With global warming, we see them moving north. We are also facing a global health security challenge. And regions like Asia or Latin America may be interested in duplicating the AVMA’s innovative mechanism. »

Finally, the ambitions of the Medicines Agency, created by the African Union in 2022 and whose headquarters are to be built in Kigali, will also be on the agenda of discussions with the Rwandan President, Paul Kagame. Here again, the issue goes beyond the borders of the continent.

Read also | Measles in Africa: Operation “Grand Catch-up” renewed to stop the fall in vaccination coverage

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“This new institutional tool desired by the AU, deciphers Jean Kaseya, head of Africa CDC, will be great progress for Africans to have access to quality medicines from abroad as well as from the continent, condition sine qua non in the fight against antibiotic resistance, a global public health problem. In Africa, the consumption of fake or substandard medicines kills more than a million people each year and reinforces antimicrobial resistance, which kills more than HIV, malaria and tuberculosis combined. It became the first epidemic suffered by Africans. »

For the head of the African public health agency, who will be present in Paris, increasing the continent’s vaccine manufacturing capacity will also make it possible to develop a drug and medical products market worth more than $50 billion, which the continent has urgently needed so that, ultimately, the continent “can establish their own health priorities”.

Sandrine Berthaud-Clair

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