Local Production of COVID 19 Vaccines: A Strategy for Action
COVID-19 has lent a fresh lease of life to local production initiatives particularly in Africa. In the vaccines sector, several new initiatives have been announced such as the recently announced mRNA hub for COVID-19 vaccines. Focused on creating disseminated manufacturing capacity for current and future pandemic response, these initiatives compete with other supply expansion efforts by private companies and other international organizations. The plethora of initiatives currently underway raise several questions: what is the relationship between building local capacity at the regional level, and expansion of supply capacity of COVID-19 vaccines at the global level? Are we risking over-production of COVID-19 vaccines, and if so, how can we ensure sustainability of current local production initiatives? Building on (a) the structure of the vaccines market, (b) the synergies between COVID-19 and other epidemiological causes, and (c) lessons learnt in vaccines manufacturing in other developing countries, we propose key components of sustainable local production strategies for vaccines that should guide current efforts in the African region.
- To be able to produce successfully and at scale, local manufacturers in Africa will require both technology access and market certainty.
- Although the pandemic has catalyzed a willingness to transfer technology for a variety of technologies today, for this to result in profitable enterprises in Africa of the kind that are beneficial for African countries, local production efforts need to be more closely calibrated with assessments of future vaccine markets, and geared toward a wider range of epidemiological needs of the region.
- A sustainable strategy for local production that can ensure such an outcome needs to be built on three pillars:
- choosing vaccine technologies that have a closer connection with epidemiological needs of countries to ensure production diversification.
- enabling production capacity beyond fill and finish, geared toward increasing the capacity of partners to actively technologically expand, to enter new areas of production.
- guaranteeing market access for local producers.
- Other significant factors will include facilitating technology transfer arrangements with African companies and other companies in the DCVMN with a view to help companies develop diverse vaccine portfolios and co-investing in to potentially share in the risk of new ventures.
- African governments can play a critical role in enabling structured technology partnerships that combine technology, know-how, finance, and other support.
- Other actors – such as the Gates Foundation, CEPI, the COVAX or the Team Europe – could step in to promote financing and strengthen these initiatives with greater coordination.