By Reuben Eze
Vaccinologist Dr Simon Agwale was, Wednesday, unanimously elected to lead Covid-19 vaccine task team of the African Vaccine Manufacturing Initiative towards building Africa’s vaccine manufacturing capacities and solutions to the coronavirus pandemic on the continent.
The body, drawn across Africa, mobilises Africa, through advocacy, to manufacture preventive and therapeutic vaccines and other biological products against diseases of public health importance; encourage partnerships between African vaccine manufacturers and biological, and other stakeholders; attract and secure skills and resources for establishing vaccine manufacturing capacity in Africa; and promote scientific and technical capacity building of Africa’s vaccine manufacturers in production and distribution of vaccines and other biological products.
The meeting resolved that vaccine access remains a critical risk for African countries, adding that the concept of ‘vaccine nationalism’ would be kicked in ‘where countries look after themselves first before making vaccine doses available to other countries’. The resolution also includes setting up a dedicated fund to support African vaccine manufacturing capacity on the continent, with a ‘flexible procedure to produce vaccines other than Covid-19 vaccines’.
Dr Agwale said, “This is timely because according to an article by Health Times, ‘In much of the global Covid-19 conversation, Africa is barely mentioned. But the risks which the Covid-19 crisis brings are even greater in Africa, and those risks will be compounded if Africa is marginalized in the global response.”
Dr Agwale, a former researcher at the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD), is the founder/CEO of Innovative Biotech, Keffi, Nasarawa State and the USA. He is at the forefront of shaping the future direction of vaccine development worldwide. He was West Africa’s representative on HIV/AIDS for Developing Countries Coordinating Committee (DCCC) at European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Programme (EDCTP) where he chaired the African Scientists Committee (DCCC). He represented Africa at local and international scientific fora, including assignment as temporary adviser to WHO/UNAIDS. Dr Agwale served on the European Commission Framework Programme 6 (FP6) and FP7 grant review committee, and was also a grant reviewer for the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP). In addition, he was a member of the European HIV Vaccine Special Working Group. Furthermore, he was a member of the West African Consortium (WANETAM) to prepare West Africa for the conduct of clinical trials of drugs/vaccines against TB, AIDS and Malaria.
By Reuben Eze