Our members ready for vaccine production - Pharmacy Chamber

Mr Benjamin Botwe — President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana, adressing the gathering. Picture: Emmanuel Quaye

Mr Benjamin Botwe — President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana, adressing the gathering. Picture: Emmanuel Quaye

Pharmacists and pharmaceutical companies have expressed their readiness to partner the government to produce vaccines locally.

They have, however, called on the state to outline a clear road map and a strategic plan towards a local vaccine production for them to fit their strengths and efforts within.

The pharmacies and companies, who are members of the Ghana National Chamber of Pharmacy, also called for the creation of an enabling environment by removing all bottlenecks, which included inadequate capital and helping the industry to put up manufacturing facilities compliant with World Health Organisation (WHO’s) good manufacturing practices.

Summit

At the opening of the Ghana Pharma Summit 21 in Accra yesterday, the President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana, Mr Benjamin Botwe, said the production of vaccines, particularly, COVID-19 vaccines had been long overdue.

The business summit focused on the theme: “Positioning Ghana Pharma Industry for The Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and Vaccine Production”.

The Pharmacy Chamber used the summit to discuss how it could help accelerate efforts to harness the country’s vaccine production potential.

It believes the local production of vaccines would also help position the industry better for the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

Plan

Mr Botwe said a clearly articulated plan, well syndicated and aligned with stakeholders across all levels, would be critical for a successful vaccine production effort.

He said the plan must also address the major challenges facing local manufacturing of medicines which included higher costs of production.

Key stakeholders of the chamber are the Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana, the Pharmacy Council, the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association of Ghana, the Food and Drugs Authority, the Ghana Standards Authority, the School of Pharmacy of the University of Ghana, the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and the Central University College.

He said as much as the industry was poised to see vaccine production become a reality in real time, the government had to create the enabling environment for that to happen.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has been a wake-up call for Ghana and the entire sub-Saharan Africa to build vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics manufacturing capacity as one of the resources needed to address public health crises.

“Consequently, the entire pharmacy fraternity is excited by the government’s recognition of the need to develop our capacity to produce our own vaccines domestically and reduce our dependence on foreign supplies, particularly amid the global vaccine shortages and geopolitics. For me, this should have happened yesterday,” he said.

Africa situation

Mr Botwe said vaccine production had become more critical because Africa lagged behind in access to vaccines due to insufficient global supplies.

He said the continent needed 1.5 billion doses to vaccinate 60 per cent of its population, the African Union’s current targeted threshold.

“Across Africa, there is a shortage of vaccines due to rampant hoarding by wealthy nations, a problem compounded by India’s health crisis that has affected vaccine supply to many developing countries.

“Besides improving vaccine distribution and access through the COVAX facilities and some bilateral and multilateral arrangements, there should also be investments in African Research & Development and production of pharmaceuticals, as India has successfully done,” he said.

Vulnerability

The Chairman of the chamber, Mr Harrison Abutiate, said COVID-19 had highlighted how vulnerable Africa had become.

“If we do not seriously sit up and think of investing in the production of vaccines and other essential medicines to fight diseases and pandemics, then the future of our people is very bleak,” he said.

He added that the summit was a platform to share knowledge and views on how the country could take full advantage of the AfCFTA and also look at vaccine production in the country.

“Indeed, it is time for Ghana and the entire continent of Africa to implement all development strategies to position themselves as suppliers of efficacious pharmaceutical products and not just importers and consumers,” Mr Abutiate said.