Meryame Kitir invests in local production of vaccines in Senegal

The Minister of Development Cooperation and Major Cities Policy, Meryame Kitir, is making additional efforts to strengthen local vaccine production in Senegal. She made the announcement while on a working visit to the country. Yesterday, M. Kitir visited a number of projects in the health sector, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Minister Kitir is currently on a working visit to Senegal and visited, yesterday, a number of projects in the health sector, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. In September, our country donated 405,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine to Senegal through COVAX. Minister Kitir now wants to go further and strengthen her cooperation with Senegal to support local vaccine production. She plans to provide 4 million euros for this purpose.

"Sharing our vaccines is important, but we also need to look for structural solutions that will allow everyone to have access to a vaccine as quickly as possible. By producing vaccines locally, we will ensure that the African populations also have faster access to a vaccine," says Kitir.

Belgium, through its development agency Enabel, has been working with Senegal for years to improve access to basic health care. The Senegalese government has made significant efforts to improve the health sector in recent years and has established the development of the local pharmaceutical sector as a policy priority. The country hopes to be able to produce many more medicines and vaccines by itself in the coming years.

Minister Kitir's strive to increase global production capacity is well known. She united the Belgian public, private and academic sectors to discuss and explore how local production can be made possible.

"Despite the scale of the COVID-19 pandemic, global production capacity is underused. This is mainly because the private sector is still too reluctant to share its knowledge and technology. However, this should not prevent us from doing everything we can to strengthen local production."

Kitir welcomes Biontech's announcement on Tuesday that it will finance, build and operate a factory in Senegal to start up local production capacity of mRNA vaccines. Once sufficient quality guarantees are met, the factory will be handed over to the Institut Pasteur in Dakar. Construction will start in mid-2022. Biontech estimates that it will be able to produce about 50 million vaccines per year. Belgium supports this initiative.

"Belgium is siding with other European member states in the project. It will ensure that vaccines will be produced effectively. However, building a factory alone is not enough. You also need sufficient expertise to ensure that more high-quality vaccines can be produced," says Kitir. "That is why we are also focusing, with the Senegalese government, on necessary training and opportunities to exchange knowledge so that they can cope with the increase in production. We are only safe when everyone is safe."

The funds will be used to prepare the Senegalese public sector for more local production of, among others, COVID-19 vaccines. But other medicines and vaccines that are very important for the country - such as AIDS drugs or yellow fever vaccine - will also be included in the cooperation.

"We are investing in improving health care for the Senegalese," says Kitir. "This is important, because the sooner everyone is vaccinated and the better prepared we all are to respond to future epidemics and even pandemics, the sooner everyone - including us - will be safe."