Overcoming challenges in De-risking vaccine production in Africa

Published Jun 19, 2024


By Oceans Marasha

The decision by Moderna to halt plans for a vaccine production facility in Kenya has sparked widespread concern among healthcare stakeholders in Africa, highlighting ongoing challenges in vaccine accessibility and local production capacity.

Despite setbacks, experts believe these challenges are surmountable with strategic efforts and collaboration.

Michael Mynhardt, CEO at MMH & Partners Africa, expressed frustration over Moderna's decision, emphasising the continent’s historical dependence on external entities for health solutions. He noted that while Africa often receives pledges of support, tangible actions for sustainable health security are limited.

The urgency to establish local vaccine manufacturing capabilities in Africa stems not only from the immediate need for Covid-19 vaccines but also from long-standing health crises and vulnerabilities across the continent.

Mynhardt acknowledged the risks involved in such ventures but emphasised they are not insurmountable with proper planning and commitment.

He cautioned against overly sensationalised reactions to Moderna's withdrawal, urging stakeholders to recognise the complexities and economic realities involved. He stressed the importance of securing commitments from governments and buyers to ensure the sustainability of vaccine production ventures.

De-risking vaccine production requires trust and commitment from all stakeholders, particularly governments and international organisations. The recent collaboration between BioNTech and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to establish an mRNA vaccine production site in Rwanda exemplifies progress in this direction. Such initiatives are crucial for building local capacity to meet ongoing and future health challenges in Africa.

Mynhardt highlighted the need for supportive policies and standardised regulations across African nations to facilitate sustainable health security initiatives. Clear and consistent regulatory frameworks can attract more investments and partnerships from global pharmaceutical companies, ensuring long-term success in vaccine production.

Looking ahead, Mynhardt emphasised the role of regional governments in creating an enabling environment for the healthcare sector's development. He underscored the importance of initiatives aligned with the Africa CDC's goal to produce the majority of vaccine doses locally by 2040. Such efforts are essential for achieving sustainable health security and reducing Africa's dependence on external vaccine supplies.

While setbacks like Moderna's decision are setbacks, they underscore the need for Africa to enhance its local healthcare infrastructure and manufacturing capabilities.

By fostering trust, commitment, and supportive policies, African nations can build resilient health systems capable of addressing current and future health challenges effectively. The path forward requires concerted efforts from all stakeholders to ensure equitable access to vaccines and healthcare solutions across the continent.