African vaccine manufacturing initiative aims to provide $1B to local firms over next decade

Amid an influx of efforts to help the African continent claim vaccine sovereignty, a new financing mechanism devised by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the African Union and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) has taken flight.

On Thursday, Gavi, the African Union and Africa CDC—plus France and other countries—debuted the African Vaccine Manufacturing Accelerator (AVMA), which will help meet the African Union’s goal to produce at least 60% of the continent’s required vaccines by 2040.

AVMA’s aim is to make up to $1 billion available over the next 10 years to boost the expansion of “commercially viable vaccine manufacturing in Africa,” according to a Gavi release. By using a “pull financing mechanism,” AVMA aims to provide downstream incentives to manufacturers to help parry the initial costs of development and production of much-needed shots.

As part of the launch, the European Union is pledging more than €750 million (about $802 million) to the project. Some $318 million will come from Germany, in addition to $100 million from France and $60 million from the United Kingdom, France 24 reports. Additional donations are coming from the likes of the United States, Canada, Norway, Japan and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the publication added.

Also on Thursday, the U.S. government said it would work with Congress to earmark at least $1.58 billion to Gavi over the next five years. The U.S. pointed out that it’s supported AVMA since its conception and looks forward to working together with the African Union to advance the vaccine localization effort.

Gavi’s board formally approved plans for AVMA back in December. At the time, the organization noted that the present demand for vaccines in Africa is valued at more than $1 billion per year—a figure that’s projected to grow as the continent’s population continues to rise over the next few decades.

While Africa accounts for roughly 20% of the world’s population, the continent’s vaccine industry currently contributes some 0.1% of global supply, Gavi stressed.

AVMA will work by providing manufacturers with two types of incentives at different trigger points, Gavi explained.

Milestone payments will be triggered when a company with an eligible vaccine successfully snags World Health Organization (WHO) prequalification and enters into a milestone payment agreement. Meanwhile, accelerator payments will be made available upon delivery of eligible vaccine doses.

AVMA is prioritizing a number of vaccines to start, including those for oral cholera, malaria, measles-rubella, yellow fever, Ebola and rotavirus. The organization is emphasizing mRNA and viral vector shots as its technology platforms of choice.

The new organization is a piece of a “complex jigsaw that will, over time, strengthen the resilience of global and regional vaccine supply chains," the Africa CDC said in a release.

AVMA’s launch comes as other efforts to establish vaccine manufacturing in Africa have yielded mixed results.

In April, after Moderna said it was rethinking its decision to build a $500 million vaccine plant in Kenya thanks to a lack of demand, the Africa CDC was quick to step in, arguing that Moderna’s second-guessing of its plan helped perpetuate the inadequate response to the COVID-19 pandemic on the continent.

However, mRNA rival BioNTech, which opened an immunization plant in Kigali, Rwanda, in December, recently received $145 million from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to help establish vaccine R&D, plus clinical and commercial manufacturing at the Kigali site.

The goal is to establish an “end-to-end vaccine ecosystem” on the continent, which would help Africa better prepare for potential future epidemics and pandemics, BioNTech and CEPI said in a joint release in May.