Major step towards vaccine production; as prez cuts sod for 600m units capacity facility

President Nana Akufo-Addo has cut the sod for constructing the first phase of a 600 million-unit capacity vaccine manufacturing plant at Medie in Accra.

This move takes the country closer to achieving its target of becoming the hub of healthcare delivery within the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), with focus on the production of pertinent drugs and vaccines which the continent lacks capacity to make.

The project’s first phase, which is estimated at US$122.6million, will be fitted with state-of-the-art technology to produce malaria; human papillomavirus (HPV); pneumonia; rotavirus; and cholera vaccines.

This phase is expected to be completed in late 2024, with production of the first-ever vaccine in the country set for first-quarter 2025. The plan is to make vaccines accessible to every child born in Ghana and the West African sub-region.

The second phase, which is an expansion of phase-one, will eventually incorporate vaccine manufacturing with a plan to construct a total of four fill and finish lines that can fill any type of vaccine – both traditional and messenger Ribonucleic Acid (mRNA). This will be done upon completion of phase-one.

The idea to manufacture vaccines locally was birthed during the COVID-19 pandemic – which reminded the nation that it is not advisable to solely depend on the benevolence and kind gestures of developed countries for vaccines and other critical healthcare requirements; hence the decision by government to support the private sector in developing local vaccine manufacturing capacity.

The initiative is executed by DEK Vaccines Limited, a consortium of three Ghanaian pharmaceutical firms – Danadams, Ernest Chemists and Kinapharma – selected to produce vaccines for Ghana, the ECOWAS region and Africa as a whole, under a broader plan to shore-up the continent’s capability to produce vaccines.

The president said venturing into vaccine manufacturing and development as a nation is part of an objective to be self-sufficient in healthcare delivery in its entirety, as the COVID-19 pandemic left many African countries struggling to get vaccines because the Western world was thinking about saving their people first.

He said the investment, which is the first of many to come in the next five years, will ensure that the country is future-ready for any pandemic and childhood diseases.

“One of the vaccines to be produced in this facility is the malaria vaccine; and as you may know, Ghana became the first country on 21st March 2023 to give access to the newly-developed malaria vaccine by Oxford University and produced by the Serum Institute of India to be used in Ghana.

“I therefore urge all well-meaning Ghanaians, entrepreneurs and corporate bodies to help this initiative with whatever they can to make Ghana a producer of malaria vaccines among others,” he said.

Mr. Akufo-Addo added that local production of vaccines comes with both direct and indirect social economic benefits to the country, and that the adoption and maintenance of reliable health security infrastructure could serve as the foundation for sustainable economic growth.

Irchad Razaaly, European Union (EU) Ambassador to Ghana, on his part mentioned that the EU has provided a €5million grant to support the project – explaining that the EU’s decision to support the initiative is a demonstration of its commitment to support the country in becoming the vaccine manufacturing hub of Africa.

The multi-purpose vaccine manufacturing facility to be established in Ghana will be the second in West Africa after the Yellow Fever vaccine manufacturing plant in Senegal.

The grant, made available by the European Investment Bank, will among others cover project-related expenditures, initial engineering and civil works, equipment down-payments, project development and technical assistance.

Managing Director of DEK Vaccines Limited, Pharm. Dr. Kofi Nsiah-Poku, emphasised the need for Ghana and Africa to be prepared for the next pandemic.  He said vaccine manufacturing is a technology-intensive initiative that requires huge capital, and that the partnership with government is very appropriate.