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New European-funded initiative set to increase Africa's vaccine production

A mother holds her baby receiving a new malaria vaccine as part of a trial in Kenya.
A mother holds her baby receiving a new malaria vaccine as part of a trial in Kenya. Copyright AP Photo/Karel Prinsloo, File
Copyright AP Photo/Karel Prinsloo, File
By Lauren Chadwick
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The new initiative was launched at a summit co-hosted by France, the African Union, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

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Global leaders gathered in Paris on Thursday to launch a new initiative to increase vaccine production in Africa and address the large inequities that came to light during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The African Vaccine Manufacturing Accelerator (AVMA) is a new financial mechanism that will provide nearly €1 billion over ten years to support African vaccine manufacturers.

It was officially launched at a global forum co-hosted by France, the African Union and the international vaccine organisation Gavi.

The new funds will contribute to the African Union's goal of manufacturing at least 60 per cent of the continent's required vaccine doses by 2040, according to Gavi.

It is also meant to address the large inequities of the COVID-19 pandemic, where African countries struggled to access vaccines bought by richer countries.

While African countries represent nearly 20 per cent of the world's population, according to Gavi they produce just 0.2 per cent of the global vaccine supply.

The new funds will offset the high vaccine production costs, with higher incentives for manufacturers that produce priority vaccines such as those against malaria, cholera, and measles.

The European Union said on Thursday that member states would contribute more than €750 million to the AVMA, including nearly €220 million from the EU budget.

This makes EU countries the largest contributors to the financial instrument.

'Come together for a common cause'

"Our decisions today and in the months ahead...will be deciding factors in determining whether we can look back from the vantage point of 2030 with pride and satisfaction or whether we will look back in anguish at missed opportunities and squandered potential," said José Barroso, chair of Gavi's board and former European Commission president in his opening speech at the forum on Thursday (20 June).

Barroso said the forum was an opportunity to "come together for a common cause" and contribute to a "new era of immunisation and equity".

Moussa Faki, chairperson of the African Union Commission, said in an opening speech there was a "multiplicity of crises" in Africa.

"Our strength is to unite our voices and efforts to change this intolerable situation," he said, adding that COVID-19 and other crises showed that "African resilience is not enough".

Faki said that the African continent was highly reliant on expensive imports of vaccinations and that local manufacturing would save money for countries.

He said the new funding mechanism would help accelerate access to and distribution of vaccines, with the new mechanism being a "catalyst for the pharmaceutical industry in Africa".

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The forum comes shortly after countries failed to agree on a pandemic agreement by the World Health Assembly in May due to disagreements over sharing technology and how to address global health inequities.

But diplomats and experts told Euronews Health this month that they were motivated to continue discussing a possible treaty and hoped that countries would be able to bridge their differences.

According to the European Commission, the AVMA funds will purchase more than 800 million vaccine doses produced in Africa over the next decade.

"The initiative will diversify the set of global vaccine suppliers with a target of at least four African vaccine manufacturers entering the market in a sustainable way," the Commission said.

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