The Director-General of the World Trade Organisation ( WTO), Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has voiced out a strong opinion that Africa needs to create a ‘roadmap’ and key into providing strategies for boosting its capacity to take on the task of producing COVID-19 vaccines, as it is necessary for the continent in its efforts to vaccinate a large percentage out of its 1.3 billion populace.
Okonjo-Iweala made this disclosure at Abuja, in a meeting with the country’s captains of industry with Aliko Dangote in attendance. She said that the sources of African vaccines are from the international COVAX initiative and from donors like India, China and Russia, which are in active production. According to her, the issue with this is that the continent’s dependence on imported vaccines may well be a hindrance to the planned inoculation drive as richer countries are bound to stockpile vaccines and prioritise their own populations above any other, regardless of a surge in cases and the announcement of new variants of the virus.
Critical to the situation, the DG threw in a word of caution explaining that access to poor-quality vaccines is worse than no access, noting that quality must be assured in the event of local manufacturing with an active goal to protect patients and foster trust in vaccine safety.
“It’s so important for us to have that,” she said.
In addition, the DG remarked that at this stage of Africa’s development, it can no longer continue depending on the West for vaccine supplies as a look inward is imminent, and to be able to achieve this, she explained that African countries need to have the right systems and infrastructure in place to define the regulatory and ethical pathway for a quick approval of the candidate vaccine against the virus.