By Perpetua Onuegbu
Dr Patrick Tippoo, the Head of Department, Science and Innovation, the Biovac Institute, South Africa, says 99 per cent of the vaccines used in Africa are imported.
Tippoo made this disclosure on the sidelines of the opening of a three-day International Workshop on Modern and Emergency Trend in Vaccine Development on Tuesday in Abuja.
The workshop was organised by the National Agency for Biotechnology Development (NABDA) and the Centre for Science and Technology of the Non-Aligned and other Developing Countries (NAM S&T Centre).
“This is not good for Africa as it has made the continent to be over dependent on other countries which has a negative effect on the socio-economic state of the continent.
“Less than one per cent of vaccines used in Africa are made in the continent; that is an indictment on Africa.
“So we will try to advocate and keep the conversation going by bringing people together; individuals and institutions from which learning can be transferred,’’ he said.
He said South Africa as a nation had been ahead in vaccine production for 15 years but due to lack of proper investment over time it was impossible for the country to continue.
“Also due to the increasing quality of standards globally, the country came to a point where vaccine production cannot continue and by 2002, all vaccine production in the country were terminated.
“Because of this, the country came up with a private public partnership which brought about the Biovac Institute, ‘’ he said.
Tippoo said the country had picked up again in vaccine research and production, adding that the workshop was timely as it was meant to engage experts from across the African continent to come together and exchange experiences.
“It is also to build capacity and advance the production of vaccines for the continent to combat preventable diseases and death, among women and children, especially making it cheap and accessible to poor.
“We feel this is possible and necessary, we see this as a tree planting exercise for future generations to contribute to socio-economic development, skills development and general self-esteem,’’ Tippoo said.
Dr Harish Padh, Guja, the Gujarat National Law University, India, working for a vaccine centre in India, said vaccines were the most powerful means of preventing death, adding that the workshop was timely.
“Vaccine is the most powerful preventive means that we have to prevent lot of casualties, a lot of diseases and suffering, especially in young children is not is okay.
“But the south has several deficiencies and the purpose of the meeting is to see how we can come together as developing countries and address our deficiencies.
“And to be of mutual benefit to developing countries to prevent lots of preventable deaths, especially in children.
“My group is working on developing a vaccine for segular dysentery, an oral vaccine which can be taken without injection.
“So the purpose for this meeting is that vaccines are not only for preventing diseases, it also helps the economy.
“If people are healthy and live longer, there is output because of that and countries GDP change if the vaccines are put to their full potential.
“The current treatment for dysentery and dehydration is antibiotics but they are no longer effective, so we need preventable vaccines and the vaccine and oral vaccines all the better,’’ he said.
Padh said that there were many participants from developing countries and they have different ideas, some are laboratory based experts and some field experts.
“The workshop has the challenge to put them together and find out solution which would suit each and every country, ‘’ he said.
The overseeing Director-General, NABDA, Mr Abayomi Ogunde called on all participants to give priority to vaccines that could help to minimise or eradicate deaths in children and mothers, while not neglecting global best practices.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the workshop is to engage experts in developing countries to look for ways to help developing countries in the production of vaccines.
It has in attendance researchers from 16 counties who will brainstorm on emerging trends in vaccine development.
There are researchers from Vietnam, Phillines, Tanzania, Indonesia, Egypt, Zambia and Nigeria, among others.