Rwanda is in negotiations with Covid-19 vaccine manufacturers to see how the jab can be produced locally, officials have said.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is currently seeking to establish permanent vaccine production capacity in regions where this is currently mostly absent.
Under the initiative targeting low and middle income countries, WHO plans to expand capacity to produce Covid-19 vaccines and scale up manufacturing to increase global access using mRNA-vaccine technology.
President Paul Kagame this week told the Independent Panel on Pandemic Preparedness and Response, co-chaired by Helen Clark and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, that the only way to ensure vaccine equity is to produce more vaccines where they are needed.
“Rwanda is working with partners to bring the first mRNA manufacturing facility to Africa. So long as Africa remains dependent on other regions for vaccines, we will always be at the back of the queue, whenever there is scarcity,” President Kagame said.
Dr Tharcisse Mpunga, Rwanda’s Minister of State in Charge of Primary Healthcare, said, “The government is looking for a way to produce the vaccine from Rwanda. It is one way to acquire the vaccine for Rwanda but also for Africa. There is hope. Rwanda is negotiating with partners who are willing to manufacture the vaccines from Rwanda. I cannot say exactly when but there is hope that the negotiations will be fruitful.”
Dr Mpunga spoke on Thursday during an interview on the national broadcaster.
Rwanda needs at least 13 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine to inoculate 60 percent of the population, about 7.5 million people, by June 2022. So far, only 4 percent have received the first dose of the vaccine.
Currently, delivery of the second doses of AstraZeneca vaccines to Kigali is experiencing delays after India suspended vaccine exports due to an upsurge in domestic Covid-19 cases.
Rwanda was to receive Covid-19 vaccines in early April from Serum Institute of India via Covax Facility. In March, Rwanda vaccinated 350,465 people, with the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines.
Rwanda Biomedical Center announced in April that people who received the first dose of AstraZeneca would have to wait for over two months before receiving the second dose.
According to WHO, currently, South Africa, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and Senegal have the capacity to produce Covid-19 vaccines but restrictions on intellectual property (IP) rights for Covid-19 vaccines has made it impossible.
As of May 7, some 25,486 people in Rwanda have contracted the virus and 93 percent of them have recovered. The positivity rate stands at 2 percent and 338 people have succumbed to the virus.
On Wednesday, the government eased some Covid-19 restrictions with curfew hours set for 10pm-4am instead of the previous 9pm-4am.
However, some parts of the country have been put under lockdown due to high numbers of infections.
These include the Rwamiko sector in Gicumbi district and Bwishyura sector in Karongi district in Western and Northern Provinces.
Districts of Nyanza, Huye, Gisagara, Nyaruguru and Nyamagabe in Southern Province are also under stringent measures to reduce Covid-19 infections.