Forging Commercial Partnerships to Achieve More Equitable Vaccine Access

This event was part of the 2021 U.S.-Africa Business Summit.


Vaccine equity is so important, and there should be more cooperation between the private sector and governments as they work to end the COVID-19 pandemic. With the developed countries having 92 doses per 100 people compared to 4.3 doses per 100 people in Africa, the current vaccine inequity is unacceptable practically, morally, and economically. The delta variant has shown the practical impact of variants among significant populations. For sustained economic recovery, the World Bank, IMF, and WTO linked the K- shaped global economic recovery growth to access to vaccines, showing that “Vaccine policy is economic policy and Vaccine policy is trade policy”. According to the IMF, an investment of 50billion dollars to vaccinate 40% of the world in 2021 will add 9 trillion dollars to the world GDP.


An African renaissance in response to COVID-19 has been spearheaded by African heads of state’s visionary and practical leadership. Through the Africa Union (AU), Africa CDC (ACDC), WHO, among other key players, the African continent is well-coordinated. Various enabling mechanisms (African Medicines Supply Platform, The African Vaccines Delivery Alliance, The African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team) have been created in response to the pandemic. These collaborations have secured 400 million Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccines to be delivered in a week’s time to supplement COVAX through the African initiative. A key lesson from the continent is that you can’t rely on others to shape your health security. The African continent and other regions need to step back and look at health security architecture to respond to future pandemics.


Lack of global cohesion in managing the pandemic, including the economic losses, resulted in the inequity in Vaccine access. There needs to be a focus on governance and shift beyond vaccine donations. In addition, there needs to be a coherent global vaccine governance structure. “It is in the self-interest of leading economies to back a time-limited finance Arrangement/structure in a lean agile and flexible way to support a global plan to curb the spread of the pandemic.” The IMF has created room on special withdrawing rights (STR) worth 650 B dollars by next month that could support a global plan.


The private sector needs a clear global plan of action, including volume purchase orders. With this, it will be upon the private sector to; ramp up production, differentiate prices as per ability to pay / segment markets, and finally assist independent production at different regions while safeguarding their commercial interests. Later, work out how to get the commercial viability of supporting IP transfer to Africa through fees/ etc. but also essential to balance with the humane side. Collaborations models include generic licenses transfer for copiable and maybe for recommended therapeutics for COVID.


Other regions need to take lessons from the west on massive vaccinations rates resulting from private sector collaborations. With these reflections, work within the existing market-based systems by deepening commercial partnerships to position the continent for future pandemics noting the role of speedy regulatory approvals and RND contributions to the success.


Pfizer’s contribution in ensuring Equitable access to vaccines includes a part of a pledge to supply 2 billion vaccine doses (I billion in 2021 and 1 billion in 2022). In Africa, this consists of the announcement at the annual G7 summit in June 2021 by President Biden and Pfizer CEO Albert B on the purchase of 500 M doses of vaccines at non-profit price for the African continent ( 200 M doses in 2021 and 300M doses in 2022). These are to be donated by the USA through COVAX at half price to 92 LMIC, the economies defined by GAVI’s COVAX advance market commitment and 55 AU member states. In addition, Pfizer has a direct supply agreement in place with COVAX facility for 40M doses delivery to several African countries and concluded bilateral contracts with South Africa, Rwanda, Tunisia, and several more in the negotiations process.


Pfizer recently announced signing a letter of intent with Biovac Insitute in Cape Town, South Africa, to manufacture and distribute Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine within the Africa Union. The Biovac Insitute will perform manufacturing and distribution activities within Pfizer’s global manufacturing and supply chain networks. Technical transfer, onsite development, and equipment installation activities will begin immediately. The Biovac Cape Town facility will be incorporated into the vaccine supply chain by the end of 2021. Biovac will obtain drug substances from facilities in Europe, and manufacturing of finished doses will start in 2022. At full capacity, the facility’s annual manufacturing will exceed 1m doses annually. Distribution will be exclusive among the Africa Union countries.


While global demand for vaccines continues to outpace supply, other critical public health interventions are still needed to disrupt outbreaks and hotspots now. Testing is still the first defensive line and an effective tool despite the phase of the pandemic in ensuring prevention. It is essential to increase testing while the infection rates are low to enable communities to stay safe. Abbott diagnostics is moving forward with increasing self-test access, including rapid antibody testing.


Moderator: Jirair Ratevosian, Executive Director, Gilead Sciences

  • Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, Director-General, World Trade Organization (WTO)

  • Dr. John Nkengasong, Director, Africa CDC

  • Angela Hwang, President, Biopharmaceutical Group, Pfizer

  • Stephen Saad, CEO, Aspen

  • Jayashree Watal, ADJ Professor, Georgetown University Law Center 

  • Bassem Bibi, Divisional Vice President, Middle East, Africa, and Global Accounts IDEM/ARDX, Abbott


Jul 28 2021


Virtual Meeting