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RWANDA: Vaccine equity is about the future, not past – Kagame

Collins Mwai with The New Times

Vaccine equity is about creating readiness for the future in the event of health challenges such as pandemics, President Paul Kagame has said.

Kagame was speaking in Marburg, Germany where he attended a presentation and discussion on BioNTech vaccine production facilities to be built across Africa.

He joined leaders including BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin, President Macky Sall of Senegal and Ghana’s President Nana Akufo Addo and World Health Organisation Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus among other project partners.

Rwanda and Institut Pasteur de Dakar in Senegal last year in October signed agreements with German firm, BioNTech, for the establishment of mRNA vaccine manufacturing facilities in Africa.

The Head of State said that vaccine equity was not about what happened in the past but rather about the future.

“Vaccine equity is not about what happened in the past. It is about the future. There could be another pandemic. But we will be faster and better prepared next time, because of this strong partnership between BioNTech Group and Africa,” he said.

He commended the decision to deploy the solution first in Africa terming it as a strong signal that systems designed to succeed on the continent can help speed up the pace of innovation in the entire world. He cited Rwanda’s readiness to make the most of the partnership.

The modular production system is a major technological breakthrough which among other things, puts advanced vaccine manufacturing within the reach of countries which has emerged as a major need following lessons learnt from the pandemic.

“A commitment of this scale from a major pharmaceutical company is something we have never seen in Africa and we recognize its significance. Rwanda is firmly committed to this partnership and we will do our part to ensure its success and sustainability,” he said.

Kagame also pointed out the role of partnership in execution of the development.

“None of us can do it alone. We are working together with Ghana and Senegal and the African Union, especially the medicines regulatory efforts spearheaded by Africa Centres for Disease Control and NEPAD, leading to the African Medicines Agency,” he said.

BioNTech has introduced its approach to setting up scalable vaccine production by developing and delivering mRNA manufacturing facilities based on a container solution.

The first container is expected to arrive in Africa in the second half of 2022 with BioNTech expected to ship to Rwanda, Senegal and potentially South Africa in close coordination with the respective country and the African Union.

Commenting on the development, Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission said that the initiative is a real trailblazer in the global fight against the pandemic.

She noted that by pooling forces, the European Union and the African Union can achieve so much more, for mutual benefit. She said that the European Commission was committing Euro 1 billion Euros to support implementation.

The WHO boss said that access to vaccines can only be achieved through genuine cooperation on local vaccine development, production, distribution and uptake as well as collaboration on training, research and strengthening regulatory systems.

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