Vaccine plant: Akufo-Addo turning COVID crisis into an opportunity, says Nsiah Asare

The start of construction work for Ghana’s first large-scale vaccine manufacturing plant at a site on the outskirts of Accra is a testament to President Akufo-Addo’s promise to turn the COVID crisis into an opportunity, says the presidential advisor on health, Anthony Nsiah Asare.

On 18 April 2023 President Akufo-Addo cut the sod for the start of construction work on a US$122 million project which will become Ghana’s first large-scale vaccine manufacturing plant.

Speaking to Kwaku Nhyira-Addo on the Asaase Breakfast Show on Wednesday (19 April), Dr Nsiah Asare said the plant will ensure that Ghana captures a valuable share of the vaccine market in Africa.

“If you remember, President Akufo said in one of his COVID-19 televised broadcasts that he was going to turn this crisis into an opportunity.

“So, this is one … ‘turning a crisis into an opportunity’.

“We realised that, throughout Africa, [of] all the childhood vaccines coming into Africa, 99% … are all imported, only 1% is manufactured in Africa,” Dr Nsiah Asare said.

Sod cutting
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo cut the sod for construction work on the $122 million DEK Vaccines project on Tuesday.

The manufacturing plant will be a “fill and finish” site that imports components of COVID-19 mRNA vaccines and for processing, packaging and distribution nationwide and within the West Africa region, as well as for the manufacture of malaria vaccines.
Speaking at the sod-cutting ceremony for the project, which is under the private sector-led consortium DEK Vaccines Ltd and is located in Medie in the Ga East District of the Greater Accra Region, President Akufo-Addo said developments involving the global manufacture and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines were a clear warning to African countries to rethink its vaccine manufacturing capacity.

Vaccine nationalism
The president observed that “vaccine nationalism that was played out by the developed world with the roll out of COVID-19 vaccines meant that we [Africans] had to take urgent, critical steps towards making sure that never again would we be victims of the international vaccine order. It was imperative that we took our destiny into our own hands.”

To this end, President Akufo-Addo said, his administration took steps to formulate a clear plan of action towards domestic vaccine development and manufacturing.

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and other guests at the sod-cutting ceremony for the DEK Vaccines manufacturing plant in Medie, Greater Accra Region (18 April 2023)

Plan of action
The president said the plan of action led to the establishment in July 2021 of the National Vaccine Institute (NVI), which attracted seed funding of US$25 million from the European Investment Bank (EIB).

He also said that about two months ago, on 14 February 2023, the National Vaccine Institute Bill was enacted by Parliament. He has given presidential assent to the new law and the NVIs board of directors will soon be outdoored.

All of these efforts the president noted, has brought the country to the point where actual construction of a vaccine manufacturing plant is commencing.

President Akufo-Addo said that Ghana, together with Rwanda and Senegal, is venturing into vaccine manufacturing and that the three countries are “determined to become vaccine manufacturing hubs south of the Sahara”.
Guests at the sod-cutting ceremony for DEK Vaccines Ltd in Medie, Greater Accra Region (18 April 2023)

“We want to achieve self-sufficiency in vaccine production to meet future national, regional and continental needs for health security.

“We shall not then, in the future, be at the mercy of vaccine nationalism and geopolitics,” the president said.

“In a short term of two years, DEK Vaccines Ltd will fill, finish and package COVID-19 and other vaccines I have enumerated. The Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) will also establish a vaccine non-release system and will strengthen further research and development for vaccine production,” he said.

Members of the diplomatic corps at the sod-cutting ceremony for DEK Vaccines Ltd in Medie, Greater Accra Region (18 April 2023)

Malaria vaccines
President Akufo-Addo noted that “one of the vaccines to be produced by DEK is the malaria vaccine”, which has been approved for use in Ghana.

“As you may know, Ghana on 28 March 2023 became the first country to grant approval to the R21 malaria vaccine, developed by Oxford University in the United Kingdom and manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, to be used in Ghana,” Akufo-Addo said.

“The approval was granted following an extensive series of reviews and further peer reviews of the non-clinical and clinical quality paths of the vaccine product development dossier.

“The R21 vaccine has been approved for use for the immunisation of children aged five months to 36 months against malaria,” he said.

Commitment to timelines
The managing director of DEK Vaccines Ltd, Kofi Nsiah-Poku, delivered remarks at the sod cutting.

He said that the DEK Vaccines plant rests on a $122 million investment and will have a capacity to manufacture 600 million doses of various vaccines annually.

Vaccine manufacturing, Dr Nsiah-Poku said, “is technology- and capital-intensive”. In line with the World Health Organization’s directive to all countries to prepare for a future pandemic, the DEK factory is designed to have reserve capacity for any such emergency.

The DEK Vaccine consortium, together with the Government of Ghana and the European Union, is committed to ensuring that it completes construction of the plant by the end of the year 2024 in order for vaccine production to start in 2025, Dr Nsiah-Poku said.

Harriet Thompson, the British high commissioner to Ghana, at the sod-cutting ceremony for DEK Vaccines Ltd in Medie, Greater Accra Region (18 April 2023)

European support
The British high commissioner to Ghana, Harriet Thompson, and the European Union ambassador to Ghana, Irchad Razaaly, graced the sod-cutting.

In a separate statement, the envoys pledged the support of both the United Kingdom and the EU for the DEK Vaccine project.

The DEK agenda
Recognising the critical importance of health infrastructure in promoting sustainable health security against infectious diseases across the globe and particularly in the African region, the Government of Ghana has prioritised the manufacturing of vaccines in Ghana as a key component of its health-care strategy.

The DEK Vaccine factory on the outskirts of Accra is a significant project. It aims to manufacturing 600 million doses of vaccines annually, including vaccines for malaria, human papillomavirus (HPV), pneumonia, rotavirus and cholera, with the full value chain.

The project will begin with “fill and finish” and eventually incorporate vaccine manufacturing and production, with a plan to construct a total of four fill and finish lines that can fill any type of vaccine.

Using state-of-the-art technology, the fill and finish facility will have the capacity to fill both mRNA and orthodox vaccines.

The development of DEK Vaccines Ltd carries both direct and indirect socio-economic benefits, as the adoption and maintenance of reliable health security infrastructure serves as the foundation for sustainable economic growth.

DEK’s investment of $122.6 million will complete the first phase of the project, providing employment for over 250 full-time employees. It is a significant step towards securing health across Africa using locally manufactured vaccines that meet global quality standards.


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