President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has inaugurated the governing board of the National Vaccine Institute (NVI) to develop policy direction and implementation for vaccine production and manufacturing in Ghana.
At a separate event on Wednesday, President Akufo-Addo also commissioned the NVI Secretariat at Cantonments in Accra to coordinate and facilitate activities of vaccine production and manufacturing in the country.
The NVI board has Dr Anarfi Asamoa-Baah, Chairman; Prof William Kwabena Ampofo, Chief Executive Officer and other members include Dr Baffour-Awuah, Mr Mustapha Tawiah Kumah; Dr Daniel Gyingiri Achel and Ms Fredrica Sala Illiasu.
The rest are Dr Delese Darko, Prof Alex Dodoo; Dr Patrick Kuma Aboagye; Mr Kofi Nsiah-Poku; Prof Kofi Opoku Nti; Prof Gordon A. Awandare and Prof Rita Akosua Dickson.
Speaking at the inaugural ceremony at the Jubilee House, President Akufo-Addo explained that the vaccine nationalism that played out by the developed world with the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines meant that the government had to take urgent, critical steps towards making sure never again would Ghanaians fall victim or pawns to international vaccine order.
He added that “We needed to take our destiny into our own hands.”
That, the President emphasised, was the reason for the establishment of a committee, under the chairmanship of Professor Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, to formulate a concrete plan of action towards domestic vaccine development and manufacturing.
That plan of action, he explained, culminated in the announcement of the establishment, in July 2021, of the National Vaccine Institute, with seed funding of $25 million from the European Investment Bank.
The Vaccine Institute establishment forms part of the recommendations of the Committee set up by the government to formulate a concrete plan for vaccine development and manufacturing in Ghana.
The NVI mandate also is to coordinate and facilitate the capacity of DEKS Vaccines Ltd and other domestic pharmaceutical companies to fill, finish and package mRNA COVID-19 and other vaccines such as those against malaria and tuberculosis.
In the short term of two years, DEKs Vaccines Ltd will fill, finish, and package COVID-19 and the other vaccines for those against malaria and tuberculosis.
And in the medium term, that is in five years, the target is to continue the establishment of more domestic vaccine manufacturing plants in the country to manufacture vaccines to meet WHO GMP standards.
The long-term target is to produce a candidate vaccine using innovative technologies.
While congratulating the Committee, which is now turned into the National Vaccine Authority, President Akufo-Addo listed some noteworthy achievements of the Committee.
They include the development of a roadmap for vaccine development and manufacturing in Ghana; support of the upgrade of Laboratory facilities of the Food and Drugs Authority; international collaboration with Rwanda, Senegal and the mRNA in Vaccine Technology Company, BioNTech SE, Germany.
Other achievements are the establishment of a Local vaccine manufacturing plant by Atlantic Lifesciences, commissioned in April 2022 and the commencement of DEKs Vaccines Limited and the setting up of the National Vaccines Institute and its Secretariat.
He said the competencies and experiences of the composition of the board demonstrate amply the necessity for thorough engagement and consultation for the successful implementation of the Institute’s mandate.
“The task ahead of you is a challenging one, and it is my expectation and hopes that you would be up to it, the President told members of the board.
President Akufo-Addo assured the Board of “my full support to undertake all that is required to make our nation a vaccine manufacturing hub not only in West Africa but also in the entire African continent.”
The lack of a sustained supply of vaccines to fight against diseases in the country informed the establishment of the National Vaccine Institute.
Ghana established the Expanded Program on Immunisation (EPI) in 1978, afterwards, the programme received substantial and technical support from GAVI, the vaccine alliance.
Currently, GAVI supports over 89 per cent of the cost of vaccines and vaccine delivery within the country.
However, Ghana has attained the lower middle-income country status and has to transit from GAVI’s support by 2027.
Consequently, Ghana has to be self-reliant, especially in the domestic development and manufacturing of vaccines and sera.
The establishment of the National Vaccine Institute, thus, is expected to operationalise the government’s vision of securing much-needed vaccines through domestic development and manufacturing in the short and medium long term phases.
Rex Mainoo Yeboah, ISD