Devex CheckUp: The long game of local vaccine production

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Dependence on COVID-19 vaccines from abroad put many countries at a disadvantage as they wait for shipments without promises when they might arrive. Laying the groundwork to boost local manufacturing will not solve the urgent problem of vaccine inequalities now.

But many organizations are already prepare for the future: The World Health Organization this week launched the first technology transfer center for COVID-19 mRNA vaccines in South Africa, the African Medicines Agency is about to be established and Latin American countries have decided to join forces.

• The mRNA Vaccine Technology Center still needs manufacturers to commit, and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said this does not replace the need for a TRIPS waiver, reports Sara Jerving.

• Building local production capacity requires long-term commitment and a secure market for products, which is a challenge for African pharmaceutical manufacturers. Only 30% of drugs used in sub-Saharan Africa are produced locally. The issue is high on the agenda of governments of high income countries. At the first Global Local Production Forum this week, EU Commissioner Jutta Urpilainen said Team Europe intends to work with partners in Africa to develop and strengthen pharmaceutical production on the continent.

• A dynamic is being built for the African Medicines Agency, which could stimulate the local manufacture of health products and protect consumers against counterfeits. Algeria this week ratified the treaty that will create the agency – once at least six other countries have signed.

• Across Latin America and the Caribbean only 1 in 10 people have been vaccinated. Several Latin American countries have pledged to collaborate openly on COVID-19 vaccines, such as Soberana 2 in Cuba and Patria in Mexico, and to pool their manufacturing capacity.

• And while the African Union has made 400 million Johnson & Johnson doses available for purchase, countries have been slow to finalize the deals. The World Bank and the African Union this week announced a new partnership on financing the purchase of doses and supporting the deployment of vaccines in the field.

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Many predictive COVID-19 models missed the mark on the impact of the pandemic on Africa – and many point out that they were not produced by African scientists. Anthony Langat examines for Devex how the scientific agenda imported from the continent impacts the quality of research.

Count up to $ 9 billion

The Asian Development Bank has approved near $ 2 billion in loans and grants as part of its $ 9 billion Asia Pacific Vaccine Accessibility or APVAX in March 2021. The latest? A loan of $ 940 million for Bangladesh.

In this CheckUp exclusive, Jenny chats with Dr Patrick Osewe, AfDB Health Sector Head, about how the bank is responding to the huge demand for COVID-19 vaccines among its member countries, and ensures that doses purchased with APVAX funding will be equitably distributed.

Fast reflexes

The Ebola outbreak in Guinea is officially over after just four months, while the previous outbreak in West Africa took more than two years to come under control. Source: WHO

The Ebola epidemic in Guinea killed 12 people, compared to 11,000 deaths in 2014-2016.

The global health community “is striving to fight Ebola faster, better and smarter,” said WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti. Vaccines are a big piece of this puzzle.

The irony of proving negligence

Noma, a facial gangrene infection, attacks tissue and bone before killing around 90% of its victims – mostly young children – within weeks. The disease, fueled by malnutrition and lack of access to WASH, has been eradicated from much of the world, meaning many have never heard of it … and thus limiting attention, funding and resources to deal with it.

Now, health advocates are pushing for the disease to be officially added to the global list of neglected tropical diseases in 2023, hoping this will lead to increased resources. But the paradox is: because of the lack of attention, there is limited evidence to prove that this disease is neglected. Rebecca Root takes us inside The only hospital in Nigeria dedicated to noma.

What we read

German Chancellor Angela Merkel received an AstraZeneca vaccine for its first COVID-19 shot, but Moderna for its second. [BBC]

Health experts fear that a new COVID-19 variant, dubbed Delta Plus, could cause a third wave of the disease in India. [Al Jazeera]

Hospital networks in Colombia are collapsing as the country battles a third wave of COVID-19. [The Guardian]

Thirteen were recovered from over 200 COVID-19 samples that have disappeared last year from a database. New information may advance efforts to understand the origin of the virus. [New York Times]

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