The Africa CDC and the Mastercard Foundation participated in the annual World Vaccine Congress from April 3 to 6 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. The congress provided a platform for highlighting the progress of the Saving Lives and Livelihoods initiative, with a focus on regionalizing vaccine manufacturing in Africa through the Africa CDC Partnership for African Vaccine Manufacturing (PAVM).
The congress convened global experts to discuss the latest learnings and most pressing issues facing global health, especially in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic. From the exhibition space, the congress saw the participation of research Institutions and health technology (vaccine) manufacturing companies. These entities showcased the latest technologies in the vaccine value chain right from innovative technologies in research and development all the way to the delivery of the product. Some of the technologies under development which were displayed during this congress have the potential to entirely solve the current challenges that vaccination programs face.
Key themes including sustainable global manufacturing, private and public sector funding, and safety surveillance, as well as the importance of skills transfers, emerged as pillars for successful vaccine capabilities. Many of these themes called for more manufacturing of live-saving vaccines and increasing their uptake at the program level. Responding to the call has the potential to benefit the African continent through collaborations with key Africa CDC programmes contributing to the vaccine value chain like the Saving Lives and Livelihoods and PAVM, which work to increase access to vaccines in Africa, in part by establishing manufacturing on the continent.
A global manufacturing ecosystem is critical to ensuring rapid and easy access to vaccines when we need them most. Regional manufacturing allows vaccines to reach people faster, save lives, increase equitable access, reduce costs and increase workforce development. But to build resilient manufacturing systems, sustainability and vaccine production financing models must be incorporated from the outset. Facilities must meet the consistent non-pandemic needs of a region while maintaining the capability to scale up for emergency response; workers need to be highly trained; and local governments need to provide funding and support.
In discussions about manufacturing, experts agreed that funding is a critical component of success. Some estimates show that every dollar invested in manufacturing vaccines can give a return of seven dollars in economic value, emphasizing the economic development opportunities that establishing manufacturing infrastructure and increasing vaccination coverage for regional priority diseases provides. Through learnings shared by experts and stakeholders throughout the duration of the Congress, it’s clear that funding must go beyond a monetary investment and support cannot end with vaccine procurement. Support must be provided from vaccine distribution, vaccination of populations, technology and skills transfer, and disease surveillance systems.
Behavioural science insights are key to patient education and combatting vaccine hesitancy. As health advancements increase, the need for comprehensive support grows. Greater financing is needed to purchase the latest generations of vaccines, new manufacturing technology requires large-scale technology transfer, surge capacity must be built for times of emergency, and a resilient workforce must be specially trained.
To achieve progress, effective collaboration is needed throughout the vaccine ecosystem. In nearly every presentation, one-on-one discussion, and panel held at the meeting, experts echoed the essential role of collaboration and partnerships. Public-private partnerships, government partnerships and support, and organizations like COVAX and initiatives like PAVM rely on collaboration to improve access to vaccines. When discussing learnings from COVID-19, experts agreed that collaborations saved millions of lives and that moving forward, there is need to create partnerships to share genomic surveillance data globally to be able to understand the vaccines needed in the future. Equally important is an understanding of the efficacy and effectiveness of vaccines with regard to the circulation of different variants of pathogens.
About Africa CDC initiatives contributing to the vaccine Value Chain
- The Africa CDC partnership with Mastercard Foundation’s is a perfect example of the possibilities that are borne from respectful and action-oriented partnerships. In 2021, Mastercard Foundation and Africa CDC launched a joint initiative, Saving Lives and Livelihoods initiative, a historic partnership that aims to enable COVID-19 vaccination for millions of people. The partnership further aims to develop a workforce for vaccine manufacturing, establish systems for pharmacovigilance, build logistics capacity for vaccine delivery and strengthen the Africa CDC’s capacity to oversee a historic vaccination campaign and effectively respond to future outbreaks ensuring long-term health security of the continent.
- Under this collaboration, the Partnership for African Vaccine Manufacturing (PAVM) has been launched and it is being implemented on a larger scale. This is very crucial to advancing vaccine manufacturing capabilities in Africa as it aims to increase the number of vaccines produced on the continent from one to 60 percent by 2040 and further develop the human capital for vaccine manufacturing.
- Africa CDC Institute of Pathogen Genomics, through the Africa Pathogen Genomics Initiative (Africa PGI) aims to enhance disease surveillance and public health partnerships through integrated, cross-continent laboratory networks equipped with the tools, human resource capacity and data infrastructure to fully leverage critical genomic sequencing technologies. Nearly 140 disease outbreaks are detected annually across Africa. Genomic sequencing technology will provide the scientific evidence needed for health systems to better prevent, identify and track these outbreaks. In addition to being an important tool for disease surveillance and outbreak response, pathogen genomics sequencing is critical to developing diagnostic tools and vaccines. The technology has not been widely practised in Africa because of several limitations including cost, lack of laboratory infrastructure and trained human resources. Based on the assessment done in 2018/2019, only seven national public health institutes in Africa have the capacity to conduct whole genome sequencing at a small scale. Following the launch of the Africa PGI by Africa CDC and partners, many institutions have been supported to have an in-house capacity for pathogen genomics. Currently, 39 African Union Member States have the infrastructure and skilled personnel to conduct pathogen genomics sequencing and for the seven additional Member States, the support to enhance their capacity continues. The target for 2024 seeks to have all AU Member States have pathogen genomics sequencing capacity and apply it not only for COVID-19 but for other priority pathogens. During the World Vaccine Congress in Washington DC, the impressive achievements of the Africa PGI were showcased and information about the program implementation status was provided to interested participants. Expression of interest by key institutions to collaborate with Africa CDC was made in expanding the capacity of pathogen genomics particularly in magnifying its application for diagnostics and vaccine development.
Learn more about Saving Lives and Livelihoods here.
For more information, contact:
Dorothy Wambeti Njagi, Senior Communication Officer – Policy, Health Diplomacy & Communication: Africa CDC | Tel: +251 940 559 950 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org