Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca … the race for COVID-19 vaccines in the world is accelerating, a race that does not leave Africa indifferent. If time has not yet been vaccinated, several African countries have already started testing candidate vaccines for a mass vaccination campaign, such as Morocco, Guinea by the way. of South Africa.
Awaiting vaccination start and blocking the road to Covid-19, African countries are being organized. Morocco, which has not yet validated the marketing of two potential vaccines, is a leader information campaigns with the population for four months.
“The medical profession is unanimous in terms of vaccination interest,” said RFI Allal Amraoui, a surgeon and deputy in Fez, east of Rabat. “It is a tradition. The Moroccan will not discover the vaccine, a Moroccan has vaccinated his children, my children themselves have received a dozen vaccines “, specifies the doctor, who also heads a research center for health policies.
AstraZeneca at the helm
Morocco has ordered 25 million doses of the British vaccine AstraZeneca and 40 million doses of the Chinese vaccine Sinopharm. Two vaccines that, according to Amraoui, are more in line with Moroccan and more African realities.
“These are classic vaccines that Morocco is familiar with. They can be stored at temperatures of 2 to 8 degrees, and we have the means to deploy them anywhere, even in the depths of the country, ”he declared.
These logistical problems also dictated Uganda’s choice of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has just been licensed by the United Kingdom.
To finance the acquisition of doses, Kampala relies on the Covax system, managed by the international alliance GAVI. Created by the World Health Organization (WHO), this mechanism aims to immunize 20% of the most vulnerable people in 92 low-income countries.
The price of the vaccine varies between $ 20 and $ 30 for the most sophisticated. And with a dose of two doses per. Person, it quickly becomes very expensive. A reduced cost from the Covax unit.
“The Covax unit is providing about $ 136 million and the Ugandan state is contributing $ 10 million,” said Misaki Wayengera, chairman of the Uganda Ministry of Health’s Scientific Advisory Committee.
“This money is used for the first phase of the vaccination for 9 million Ugandans. In the second phase, it will be up to the government to deliver the 136 million dollars, and for this we count on support from the private sector, ”he adds.
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Delays, bilateral agreements
Two billion doses are expected, but they are coming slowly. While waiting for the delivery scheduled for next March, some states do not hesitate to negotiate directly with the major manufacturers for faster vaccine doses, triggering a war of influence between the world powers.
“Some African countries are relocating to China and Russia to get vaccines by playing on the geopolitical map,” said Mamady Traoré, a doctor and spokesman for vaccinations and responses to epidemics within the NGO Médecins Sans Frontières.
Guinea recently entered the race by receiving 60 doses of the Russian vaccine Sputnik 5. Elsewhere, South Africa, hard hit by the pandemic, is conducting clinical trials with the American vaccine Johnson & Johnson. “Today, there are about 40 countries that have worked on their vaccine preparation and introduction plans and are now ready to be able to vaccinate their population as soon as the first vaccines are available for Africa,” adds Mamady Traoré.
This first undergoes a validation process carried out by health agencies in the country concerned and the World Health Organization (WHO).
“The biggest criterion undoubtedly remains the innocence and especially the effectiveness of the product, so we first look at whether the product is harmless,” explains Dr. Richard Mihigo, Head of Emergencies and Vaccines at the WHO Africa Office in Brazzaville, online from Kigali. “The goal is to have a vaccine that protects but does not create other problems.”
The WHO has recommended the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine, which has already been used by several countries. “For everything else, whether it’s the Russian vaccine, the Chinese and all vaccines that are in the final stages of clinical trials, we do not yet have sufficient data to certify their efficacy and safety,” adds Richard Mihigo.
Technology transfer still slow
While some countries are already packing the vaccine, there is no technology transfer yet. The formula is kept very secret by the Chinese, Russians and other manufacturing countries, regrets Mr Traoré from Médecins Sans Frontières.
“There is no transparency regarding bilateral agreements between countries and pharmaceutical companies,” he complains, urging African countries to promote a relaxation of intellectual property rules. The result: better access to drugs, equipment and Covid-19 tests that make it possible to save more lives. “From then on, Africa could hope to get its own vaccine.”