African Parliamentarians have called for the removal of barriers to vaccine delivery and uptake during the virtual Sitting of the Permanent Committees of the fifth Parliament of Pan-African Parliament (PAP). The virtual engagement was organized to review the status of the COVID-19 pandemic in African Union (AU) Member States and the roll-out of the vaccine on the continent.
Members of the Permanent Committees on Health, Labour and Social Affairs; Gender, Family, Youth and People with Disability; Rules, Privileges and Discipline; as well as Committee on Justice and Human Rights were briefed by Dr. Raji Tajudeen,Head: Division of Public Health Institutes and Research at Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC).
Members of the PAP sought updates on the Africa Vaccine Development & Access Strategy, which promotes the acceleration of African involvement in vaccine development and the continent’s access to sufficient supply. The strategy is underpinned by the establishment of the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT) by the AU as a component in support of the Africa Vaccine Strategy that was endorsed by the AU Bureau of Heads of State and Government on 20th of August 2020.
“The AVATT recently signed an Advance Purchase Agreement with Johnson & Johnson for 220 million doses on behalf of the 55 member states of the African Union (AU). The AU is exploring options of securing an additional 180 million doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccine. ,” said Dr. Tajudeen.
Dr. Tajudeen added that while the continent has made tremendous progress in the fight against the COVID-19 due to early and unified leadership, not all countries have access to vaccines at the time they need them most. He says the challenge that many African countries face is that the supply of vaccines is currently too slow to meet their needs. Dr. Tajudeen told Parliamentarians that lessons drawn from the fight against COVID-19 indicate the need to increase investments in the continent’s capabilities to boots local manufacturing of medical interventions.
Hon. Toussaint Manga, Acting Chairperson of the PAP Committee on Health said that the continental Parliament was encouraged by how the African continent has united and mobilised to win the health war against the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our challenge now is to ensure that we do not lose the war against vaccine access and development. This is time to harness our potential and build African medical supplies manufacturing capability that meets the health needs of the continent’s people. We cannot afford to fall behind at this crucial stage of the fight and we need all the stakeholders to play their part.” said Hon. Manga.
The Africa CDC says it would like to see Africa produce up to 60% of vaccines used on the continent. Currently, the continent imports 99% of all vaccines, while managing to manufacture only 1%.