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Africa Must Produce Its Own Vaccines

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Africa has relied on bilateral agreements and multilateral platforms like COVAX to deliver vaccine doses. But these have proved far from adequate, demonstrating just how important it is for the continent to develop its pharmaceutical industry.

WASHINGTON, DC – During the pandemic, wealthy countries led the way in rapidly developing and producing COVID-19 vaccines. The same countries then bought up and administered those vaccines to their own populations, and have even ordered boosters for already-vaccinated people. Meanwhile, many developing countries have not been able to deliver even one dose to most of their populations.

Africa, in particular, is struggling with limited access to COVID-19 vaccines. As of August 31, African countries had administered 94 million doses to the continent’s population of nearly 1.4 billion, with a total supply of 134.5 million. By contrast, the United States – with a total population of 332 million – has administered over 375 million vaccine doses.

This disparity partly reflects the fact that most African countries are not able to produce the vaccines needed to protect their populations against not only COVID-19, but also the myriad other diseases that plague the continent. Africa is home to only four local drug substance vaccine manufacturers – two more are in development – and two “fill-and-finish” facilities that rely on imported vaccine substances to produce distributable doses. Supply-chain disruptions during the COVID-19 pandemic showed just how risky this dependence on imports of critical medical supplies can be.