The World Health Organization (WHO) has lauded Ghana for its resolve to strengthen research and systems for the development and manufacture of the COVID-19 vaccine.
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The move, according to the world health body, was a step in the right direction given the inequality between the developed and developing countries in terms of vaccine distribution.
Dr Francis Chisaka Kasolo, WHO’s Representative to Ghana, said building the capacity for the local production of the vaccine had become imperative for African countries, in particular, given how the continent had been devastated by the pandemic.
Addressing the Ninth College of Health Sciences Biennial Conference, being hosted by the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Kumasi, the Representative assured that the world health body would be supportive of the West African nation to realize her goals.
“It is also important that we invest in critical care capacities and health systems in general for future pandemics,” Dr Chisaka Kasolo observed.
Ghana, in February, this year, commissioned a Vaccine Manufacturing Committee to facilitate the capacity of domestic pharmaceutical companies to fill, complete and package COVID-19 vaccines.
In pursuance of the country’s vision, the Committee has developed a roadmap and doing stakeholder consultations for Cabinet and Parliamentary approvals for the establishment of a National Vaccine Institute (NVI) to coordinate domestic vaccine development and manufacture.
The country, as part of its short-term strategies, is seeking to establish a technology transfer partnership with vaccine developers and provide in-house and external training programmes for the requisite staff.
In the medium-term, the target is to establish local vaccine manufacturing plants to manufacture COVID-19 vaccines and some other vaccines, especially the EPI-managed vaccines.
The authorities are also working to actively engage in cold-chain system enhancement to support the storage of the high volumes of vaccines to be produced while scaling up and translating the research laboratories in academia and biomedical research institutions to develop vaccine candidates.
Dr Chisaka Kasolo argued that the availability of COVID-19 vaccines was critical to substantially reduce the impact of the pandemic in developing countries.
The pandemic, he said, was a threat to humanity, and as such, the onus lied on the people to take proactive measures in overcoming the challenges it posed to the global economy and health systems.
Dr Anthony Nsiah-Asare, Presidential Advisor on Health, said Ghana’s long-term target was to produce a candidate vaccine in 10 years, using innovative technologies.
“It is also envisaged that the human resource base, which includes clinicians, epidemiologists, pharmacists, virologists, molecular biologists, immunologists, biochemists, biomedical and chemical engineers, will be in full use at this period,” he noted.
Professor Rita A. Dickson, the Vice-Chancellor, KNUST, in a speech read on her behalf, said the Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research in Tropical Medicine (KCCR), had played significant roles in supporting the testing and reporting of COVID-19 cases from the onset of the pandemic in March 2020.
She said the University was determined to put its technical expertise at the disposal of the nation in a bid to develop a COVID-19 vaccine locally.
The two-day scientific conference is on the theme: “COVID-19: a Health Challenge for the Decade, the Role of Health Professionals.”