President Uhuru Kenyatta has welcomed the selection of Kenya as a beneficiary of the global messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) technology transfer program.
Speaking after the announcement by World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, President Kenyatta appreciated the gesture saying it “demonstrates the power of partnerships to change the trajectory of Africa’s health for the better.”
In 2021, Kenya expressed interest for the establishment of a technology transfer hub for mRNA vaccines in the country.
“Today marks a new dawn of hope and promise for the African continent and her people. As one of the region’s foremost leaders in biomedical research, Kenya is honoured to be listed as one of the beneficiary countries of the mRNA technology transfer program,” President Kenyatta said.
This in essence means that Kenya will soon start producing mRNA vaccines to combat Covid-19 and other diseases. It is among six African countries that will be supported by the WHO to locally produce Covid-19 and other vaccines to fight other diseases like malaria, tuberculosis and cancer.
The six countries will benefit from the global mRNA technology transfer hub established in 2021 to support manufacturers in low and middle-income countries to produce their own vaccines as part of the efforts to address vaccine inequity.
“Today I’m delighted to announce that the first six African countries that will receive technology from the hub to produce their own mRNA vaccines are Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia.
“The aim of the hub is to provide a facility where manufacturers from low- and lower-middle income countries can receive training in how to produce certain vaccines, and the licenses to do so.
WHO will work with the companies and the government in each country to develop a roadmap for training and production, based on their needs and capacities,” the WHO Director-General said at an event on the margins of the AU-EU Summit in Brussels, Belgium.
While appreciating Kenya’s selection, President Kenyatta said it was a vote of confidence for local scientists “within our institutions and across the region.”
The Head of State observed that the Covid-19 pandemic had exposed the inequality facing developing nations, adding that the mRNA technology transfer hub program was a welcome move of immense historic significance.
“The Global supply chain systems we had hitherto relied on failed to meet the increasing demand, and it soon became a case of the wealthiest countries having the best chances of accessing life-saving commodities.
This was the case with HIV and history repeated itself yet again,” the President said.
He added: “In many ways, the Covid-19 pandemic was a wakeup call for many countries. As African Heads of State serving a population of 1.2 billion people, we were confronted with the unacceptable reality that 99 percent of vaccines were sourced from outside the continent, despite Africa accounting for 25 per cent of global vaccine needs.”
President Kenyatta stated that once the technology transfer program is successfully implemented, it will help Africa to be self-sufficient in terms of vaccine supply.
He called for the exploration of the same technology in the manufacture of medical devices, biosimilars and emerging areas of biomedical research.
“As a global community, perhaps the most significant effect it may have, will be to rebuild public trust in the ability of multilateralism to come together to address humanity’s most pressing challenges. This is a time for all of us to build back better and let us spare no effort and guarantee our future generations a healthier and a much more sustainable world,” he said.
Clinical trials of the mRNA vaccines in the beneficiary countries are expected to start in the 4th quarter of 2022, with approval expected in 2024.
“We expect the benefits of this initiative will extend far beyond Covid-19 by creating a platform for vaccines against other diseases including malaria and tuberculosis,” Dr Tedros said.
According to Dr Tedros, much of the vaccine inequity being witnessed is driven by the fact that globally, vaccine production is concentrated in a few mostly high-income countries.