In an announcement on 12 December 2022, Aspen revealed that it would receive $30 million from the Gates Foundation and CEPI to “support it capabilities to manufacture lifesaving routine and outbreak vaccines for Africa”. This funding will support an agreement between Aspen and Serum Institute of India, which aims to “expand the supply and sourcing of affordable vaccines manufactured in Africa”.  

Serum Institute Partnership 

As we explored in August this year, the partnership will ensure manufacturing and distribution of 4 routine vaccines in Africa – Pneumococcal, Rotavirus, Polyvalent Meningococcal, and Hexavalent, with technology transfers beginning in early 2023. However, this funding will also “sustain regional vaccine manufacturing capacity” at Aspen to support future outbreak responses. 

African vaccine needs 

Aspen’s statement acknowledges that 99% of vaccines administered in Africa are imported, despite the “increased globalisation of vaccine manufacturing”. As critical vaccines and treatments are unavailable or unaffordable, “vaccine-preventable diseases continue to have a devastating impact on the region”. Thus, in 2021, African leaders and organisations collaborated on a “vision” to “expand regional manufacturing capacity”. This included an “ambitious plan” to produce 60% of the required vaccines by 2040.  

The launch of a Partnership for African Vaccine Manufacturing (PAVM) in 2021 aimed to “leverage pan-African and global partnerships” for the scale-up of vaccine manufacturing in Africa. Dr Ahmed Ogwell Ouma, Africa CDC’s Acting Director spoke on behalf of the Africa CDC to welcome and congratulate the participants on the agreements.  

“These landmark agreements are a demonstration of Africa’s, and in this instance, Aspen’s ambition to further enhance Africa’s vaccine localisation efforts, its intention to diversify the pipeline for Africa-specific vaccines, and to improve Africa’s ability to respond to pandemic outbreaks. All these are critical elements to establishing health security and security of supply on the African continent.” 

Commitment from all parties 

Stephen Saad, Aspen’s Chief Executive, thanked CEPI and the Gates foundation for their “commitment” to Aspen’s efforts towards regional manufacture for Africa. This commitment, alongside Aspen’s partnership with Serum, is an “important first step in ensuring expanded and enduring equitable access to a pipeline of medicines and vaccines manufactured in Africa for Africans”.   

Dr Richard Hatchett, CEO of CEPI, described an “urgent need” to diversify vaccine manufacturing. This will enable each region to “manage its own health security” and is a key lesson from the “inequity of the COVID-19 pandemic response”. CEO of the Gates Foundation, Mark Suzman, agrees, suggesting that “one of the best ways to improve health outcomes” is “expanding the availability of affordable, high-quality vaccines that meet the needs of local communities”.  

For more on Africa-specific vaccine challenges and approaches come to the World Vaccine Congress in Washington 2023.