Strengthen Public Research Ecosystem For Vaccines NOW

A Public Manifesto By Post-Doctoral Scientists In Africa

A regional approach for vaccine manufacturing articulated by the African Union in 2020 has led to rapidly intensifying efforts in building a vaccine private sector in the region. But to realise this ambition, we have to equally focus on the need to convert African universities into R&D hubs for production and innovation, an exercise that is not only about building scientific capacity in labs and research institutes. It calls for scientific cooperation and capacity building in natural sciences and social sciences across African universities and research centres in all areas of the vaccine ecosystem. Every university counts, and every researcher counts. We, a group of post-doctoral researchers and scientists engaged in vaccine research, identify the following opportunities for Africa today: In the area of R&D, Africa has:
  • A huge young population presents an opportunity to engage them in vaccine production in future with adequate training;
  • The strong commitment of African leaders to support local vaccine production;
  • Availability of robust animal vaccine production centres across the continent;
Similarly in the area of Efficacy, Clinical Trial and Health Systems Linkages, Africa has:
  • Existing examples of regional collaboration with a view of becoming a strong confederation; for example, East African Community, that can be built upon;
  • Opportunities to invest in R&D and engage the African scientific community on the continent.
  • Opportunities to enhance the postgraduate education and training in health sciences with related national, regional and international partners.
  • Opportunities with countries having stable political establishments such as Rwanda, Senegal, etc.
And finally, in the area of technology transfer of relevance to public research, Africa has:
  • A lucrative market for pharmaceutical products; as well as the potential capacity to supply of skilled human resources, due to its youth population.
  • Current public-private partnerships that can support technology transfer and vaccine production in Africa by leveraging the resources and expertise;
  • Use of ethnomedical knowledge of African diseases to develop vaccines in the African context;
  • Trading blocs like the East African community, SADC, etc. that can be leveraged for collaborations and as a single market under the AfCFTA.

To capitalise on these opportunities, and to maximise our chances of building a vaccine production and innovation ecosystem, the following steps need to be taken.

Action Area 1: Strengthen the R&D Ecosystem for Vaccines

  • Address the inadequacy of infrastructure to train human resources and ensure skills development;
  • Enhance access to good research infrastructure through the establishment of well-equipped regional or national centres for vaccine R&D.
  • Change the game by increasing research funding available for vaccine-related R&D from African national governments;
  • Solve the problems faced by researchers in accessing/procuring R&D consumables and lab materials;
  • Establishment of strong consortia of African research in the vaccine for joint proposals and access to international research grants.
  • Ensure that the enabling environment changes to attract investors, because even currently, only a few African countries have attractive investment opportunities to attract FDI in the pharmaceutical sector.

Action Area 2: Improve Efficacy, Clinical Trial and Health Systems Linkages

  • Strengthen regulatory frameworks to address long administrative procedures for clinical trial approvals;
  • Implement the Abuja Declaration for national health systems linkages and integration;
  • Improve training options and skills building to promote expertise in clinical trials. Primarily training in basic sciences, biostatistics, biotechnologies, among others requires significant attention;
  • Increase funding to carry out clinical trials that focus on African disease profiles;
  • Solve logistics and procurement challenges;
  • Actively combat the low emphasis on postgraduate science education.

Action Area 3: Promote Technology Transfer for Vaccine based R&D in the Public Sector in Africa

  • Promote knowledge of IPRs and their use in public sector institutions;
  • Promote more hands-on training and increase training in TVETS;
  • Enhance access to technologies for the public sector in Africa.