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in Senegal, the local manufacture of vaccines to restore confidence in the population

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In the new town of Diamniadio, forty kilometers east of Dakar, work for the construction of an anti-Covid vaccine manufacturing plant began several months ago. Every day, in the shade of the baobabs and the cranes of the urban center still under construction, the foundations of Senegalese pharmaceutical industrialization become a little more robust and real. The project, baptized Madiba for Manufacturing in Africa for disease immunization and building autonomy (“Manufacturing vaccines in Africa and strengthening autonomy”, in French), is led by the Institut Pasteur Foundation in Dakar. It has been supported since the summer of 2021 by many players, including the BioNTech laboratory, the European Union (EU), the French Development Agency (AFD) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Africa (CDC). Africa).

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This Friday, February 18, another major partner joined the project. The World Health Organization (WHO) announced, during the summit between the European Union and the African Union in Brussels, that Senegal and five other countries on the continent (Egypt, Nigeria, Tunisia, Kenya and South Africa South) would receive all the technology needed to manufacture messenger RNA vaccines. A historic project, while the countries of the African continent have so far imported nearly 99% of their vaccine needs.

Restore trust

Producing vaccines will allow African countries to acquire sovereignty and health security », rejoices Doctor Amadou Sall, General Administrator of the Institut Pasteur Foundation in Dakar. The factory based in the country of Teranga is betting on the production of 300 million doses per year and should begin its activity by the third quarter of 2022. Eventually, it is expected that it will also be able to manufacture other useful vaccines for the continent, including that against yellow fever. But in the nearer future, others hope that the establishment of a local vaccine production plant can restore confidence in a distrustful and poorly vaccinated population. According to the latest figures from the Senegalese Ministry of Health and Social Action, only 1.5 million people are fully vaccinated. That’s barely 6% of the population.

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We have had enough doses of vaccines for months, but the population is reluctant Comments Ousseynou Badiane, National Immunization Coordinator and Director of Senegal’s Expanded Immunization Program, indicating that several million doses of donated vaccines have been thrown away in recent months (200,000 doses in October alone), lack of candidate for vaccination. ” The reluctance comes mainly from the fact that these vaccines are produced abroad says the doctor. I sincerely believe that the establishment of an anti-Covid vaccine manufacturing plant in Senegal can calm people’s minds and restore some confidence. An opinion shared by Serigne Sy, major of the Gaspard Camara health center in the Grand Dakar district. “ People will have more confidence in this vaccine since it will be manufactured here in Senegal, by Senegalese doctors “, he swears while Senegal already has four vaccines available (Johnson and Johnson, Sinopharm, Pfizer and AstraZeneca), which people can choose at the time of vaccination.

Green vaccination card in hand, Diarry, 23, has just received the one and only dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at the Gaspard Camara health center. ” Required to vaccination by a trip abroad, the young woman regrets having been forced to vaccinate. ” I have no confidence at all because of the rumors circulating, she confides, explaining that she is wary of vaccines made in the West. We were given the AstraZeneca vaccine only once the Europeans no longer wanted it… »

Unique in Africa

Like a majority of countries in the world, Senegal has not been spared the flood of fake news that has flooded social networks since the start of the pandemic. ” Local vaccine production will certainly not solve everything, adds Doctor Ousseynou Badiane. We still have major challenges relating to communication, to counter fake news, but also on the issue of acceptance of vaccination when the disease is less perceived in Africa than in Europe for example. “. For his part, Professor Moussa Seydi, head of the infectious diseases department at the CHNU (National University Hospital Center) of Fann in Dakar calls for the establishment of a national and international policy to fight against fake news. ” Such vaccine reluctance in Africa is unprecedented. Social networks have a lot to do with it, notes the one who is also the president of the scientific committee of Covid-19 at the Ministry of Health. Today, we oppose a certain contempt to those who convey and believe this false information. But I think that nothing should be missed and continue in the process of explanation, popularization “.

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The fact remains that the manufacture of vaccines in Senegalese territory is done in close collaboration with the German laboratory BioNTech, without there being a lifting of patents on anti-Covid vaccines. The pharmaceutical group has also developed a laboratory in containers that it intends to send to the six countries named by the WHO in the form of kits to be assembled. ” It is a partnership of trust where the interests of BioNTech as well as ours are preserved. “Summarizes Amadou Sall who will not go further in the explanations, preferring” pragmatism to controversy “. There is no doubt, however, that such a collaboration could be subject to numerous speculations on the Senegalese Web.

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