The German government is to support Ghana to conduct feasibility studies on the possibility of producing vaccines locally.
When successful, the initiative will help accelerate national plans to produce vaccines for better health outcomes and job creation.
Speaking with the Daily Graphic in Accra last Monday, the German Ambassador to Ghana, Mr Christoph Retzlaff, said the COVID-19 pandemic had shown how critical it was for Africa to produce its own vaccines.
He said the shortage of vaccines and the dependence on delivery from other parts of the world were major hurdles in Africa’s fight against the global pandemic.
“If I am informed well, Africa is producing only one per cent of vaccines that are needed on the continent. I am not talking just about the COVID-19 but all vaccines needed on the continent. There is almost no vaccine production capacity in sub-Saharan Africa; it is a situation we have to change together,” the Ambassador added.
Form of support
Mr Retzlaff said as part of the support, Germany, through its development cooperation implementing agency, the GIZ, was assisting a committee set up by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to lead the national vaccine production agenda with funding and technical assistance from Germany to conduct initial feasibility studies.
He said stakeholders were in the process of determining the cost of the feasibility studies, which are to begin soon.
“We are also linking the committee up with German technical experts and relevant Ghanaian players in science, industry and government, including the German pharmaceutical industry, such as Merck and BBraun.
“Some of these global players have already established offices in Accra (Merck, BBraun). The German Delegation of Industry and Commerce in Ghana, AHK, recently organised the first German-Ghanaian Health Forum to bring together all the players,” he said.
On why they chose to support Ghana, he said Germany believed that Ghana offered a favourable investment atmosphere for vaccine production and could become the hub for vaccine production in West Africa.
“This will equip Ghana and West Africa better in their fight against future pandemics and diseases such as Ebola, Lassa and Yellow Fever,” Mr Retzlaff said.
According to him, Ghana was the most attractive country in West Africa, considering its political stability, infrastructure and the level of science education in the country.
Global health and pandemic prevention
Mr Retzlaff said the additional effort by Germany to make vaccines accessible in Africa included the setting up of the first German-West African Centre for Global Health and Pandemic Prevention to share science and knowledge in Ghana.
“This will be one of four such centres in the world. The centre will be a collaboration among three universities — the FU Berlin University, the University of Bonn, both in Germany, and the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Ghana.
“Germany is to provide 600,000 Euro per year for the programme until 2025, with an option to extend it to 2030,” he said.
Additionally, the Ambassador said, the German pharmaceutical company, Merck, was to start a “Merck Africa Vaccine Initiative” project to build the capacity of some African countries in vaccine production.
Mr Retzlaff said Germany had supported Ghana with a 25-million Euro facility to help it in its fight against the COVID-19 and its economic and social consequences since April 2020.
“With this funding, Germany has supported the setting up of a COVID-19 Intensive Care Unit at the Effia Nkwanta Regional Hospital, the procurement of medical and personal protective equipment (PPE), as well as assisting the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research of the University of Ghana and the KCCR Institute in KNUST.
“Germany, in collaboration with the government of Ghana and the Stanbic Bank, also supported small and medium-size companies with 12 million Euros to secure jobs in the midst of the pandemic. With a 2.3 billion Euro contribution, Germany is thus the second biggest donor for the international COVAX/Gavi Initiative, which procures vaccines for more than 100 countries worldwide.
“Ghana was the first country in the world to receive the COVID-19 vaccine from COVAX on February 24, 2021. The EU is providing substantial funding for COVAX,” he said.