Covid-19 vaccine donations will not cut it for Africa, and the continent needs to be serious about setting up vaccine manufacturing plants so as to end reliance on the West, Rwandan President Paul Kagame has said.
His remarks come a week after BioNTech, a German biotechnology company producing the Pfizer vaccine, announced that it was looking to build vaccine manufacturing sites in Rwanda and Senegal.
“It takes a long time for African countries to get Covid-19 vaccines, and when the vaccines get here, many people are already in critical health conditions. That is why it is important for Africa to find a way to manufacture vaccines,” Kagame said in a televised interview on Rwanda Broadcasting Agency on Sunday.
He said that vaccine plants in Africa, such as the one his country is planning to construct, would help to end the monopoly of the West and save many lives on the continent.
“Africa was used to receiving foreign aid whenever problems hit. But this pandemic hit the whole world. Countries that would offer the aid were hit as well. That is when the idea of producing our own vaccines came. It will not only be for Rwanda or Covid-19 vaccine. It will produce multiple vaccines for the whole of Africa,” he said.
The World Health Organization (WHO) last month said that the supply of Covid vaccines to Africa had improved. Earlier, the continent struggled to get vaccine doses.
Supply has largely been boosted by wealthier countries donating to African nations or to the global vaccine-sharing scheme, Covax, WHO said.
The African Union last month signed an agreement to purchase 220 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson single-shot Covid-19 vaccine, with the potential to order an additional 180 million doses.
Rwanda has an agreement with the International Finance Centre to boost its vaccine manufacturing capacity.
Rwanda has vaccinated around 20 percent of its targeted population or 1,659,252 people, including front line workers, people who are prone to the virus and those living in urban areas.
The aim is to vaccinate 30 percent of the country’s 12.9 million population by the end of this year and 7.8 million people by June 2022.
Rwanda comes after Kenya with the highest number of total vaccines administered in the region with over 2.6 million doses given to 4.2 percent of its 52 million population.
So far, East Africa counts a total of over 445,000 reported Covid-19 cases in Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. The region’s death toll has reached over 9,000.
Daily new Covid-19 cases more than tripled in recent weeks in many parts of Africa due to the emergence of the Delta variant first detected in India.
In its latest report on the pandemic, WHO has shown that a third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic is on the rise across Africa.
It indicated that Africa was recording a 20 percent week-on-week rise in the number of cases.
Besides new variants, the spike in cases has been attributed to complacency on health protocols and increased cross-border movements.