Interview: Africa active part of global COVID-19 vaccine development, says continent health official

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ADDIS ABABA, Jan. 14 (Xinhua) -- The African continent is taking an active part in the global development of a COVID-19 vaccine as well as clinical trials, a senior African health official said in an interview with Xinhua on Wednesday.

"In terms of vaccine development, as you are aware that we, as Africa, have a COVID-19 Vaccine Strategy that was launched in August last year," said Ahmed Ogwell, deputy director of the Africa Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC).

Ogwell noted that the strategy, developed under the leadership of the African Union and the continent's healthcare agency, the Africa CDC, has three main objectives with an overarching goal of enabling timely access to COVID-19 vaccines across the African continent.

"One objective is vaccine development. Under vaccine development, what we are doing as Africa CDC and Africa is to ensure that we have clinical trial sites here on the continent that way we are part of the global movement to get vaccines or therapies when they come," the Africa CDC deputy chief told Xinhua.

"So, we are very much part of the clinical trials and that's the way that we get to be part of vaccine development," he said.

"Second, there are institutions in Africa who have already started the process of developing COVID-19 vaccine for the continent," he emphasized.

"Although, others are doing it outside of the continent, we also want our own products because this COVID-19 is not going away anytime soon, and we want to make sure that our African institutions also develop our own vaccines and that way we will be able to use those vaccines for the whole population," he said.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases across the African continent reached 3,107,979, with a total of 74,444 related deaths and 2,538,888 recoveries, according to the Africa CDC.

In terms of access to vaccines, Ogwell stressed: "We are discussing with vaccine manufacturers across the world so that we can see which vaccines are best for Africa; and which vaccines offer the best situation in terms of delivery, vaccination and cost," adding that some deals have been signed to secure vaccines.

Noting that the Africa CDC and its member states have stressed the need to procure COVID-19 vaccines, Ahmed added that the Africa CDC is part of a task force convened by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is also the current chair of the African Union.

"So, as soon as we have ensured that we have a deal with vaccine manufacturers, the vaccines will be delivered to Africa," he said, adding that the financial part "is very important, and we are already at a very advanced stage as well."

Meanwhile, Ogwell also emphasized that the African continent as well as the global community "must act together in face of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic."

"We must act early, and we have done this as Africa this time with the coordination of the Africa CDC, and you can see that our numbers are quite low. We must act early. We should not wait until a pandemic is having big numbers before we act," he said. Enditem

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