COVID-19 Vaccine Production In Africa
Low-income countries have faced extremely disproportionate rates of COVID-19 vaccinations in comparison to the world’s higher-income countries. “High-income or upper-middle-income countries” have received
more than 87% of the world’s administered vaccines and low-income countries have received only 0.2%. Around the world, more than 700 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered. Reports have stated that 25% of the 700 million doses administered went “into the arms of Americans.” On the other hand, Africa has the lowest vaccination rate of any continent in the world. Only 11% of the entire African continent received doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and 5% received both doses. With a population of about 1.3 billion, the solution to the continent’s low vaccination rate might be through developing the capacity for COVID-19 vaccine production in Africa.

The Solution

The U.S. is one of many countries that has offered support for the vaccination effort in Africa. As of November 2021, the U.S. delivered more than 60 million vaccine doses to African countries. Despite outside help, the majority of Africa’s population still remains without their first dose. One source asserts that “a lack of manufacturing is one reason that only 11% of the continent’s people have been fully vaccinated.” So far, 99% of the vaccines distributed in Africa came from outside the continent. With such a low vaccination rate, Africa faces pressures to expand vaccine manufacturing at home. There were many international efforts to help address this challenge. Governments, international organizations and private companies are offering funds and other resources to support the development of COVID-19 vaccine production in Africa.

Funding From the US and Other Countries

In July 2021, The U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) approved a $3.3 million grant to help develop “a vaccine production hub that will serve Senegal” and other West African countries. The money is a “technical assistance grant” to Fondation Institut Pasteur de Dakar (IPD), a Senegalese vaccine manufacturer, according to International Development Finance Corporation. The DFC would partner with USAID and “receive [additional] grant financing from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the French development agency, AFD and the European Investment Bank (EIB).” This grant intends to expand the vaccine production capacity of IPD and promote the development of a production hub in the West African region.

In June 2021, the U.S. government partnered with the French and German governments, investing $700 million in Aspen Pharmacare Holdings Limited, South Africa’s largest pharmaceutical company. This investment intends to support the South African company “produce up to 500 million doses” of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine by 2022. 

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Technology Transfer Hub in South Africa

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced the opening of a technology-transfer hub in South Africa in June 2021. It established this hub to support “low- and middle-income countries… produce mRNA vaccines” by providing technical knowledge and other resources, such as “training and financial support.” The establishment of this hub directly aids African countries in obtaining the “necessary human capital” to produce vaccines at home. The technology-transfer hub “is located at Afrigen, Cape Town, South Africa” and the research being used will be shared with local manufacturers. In recent news, researchers at one local manufacturer, Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines, have succeeded in producing “very small quantities” of a COVID-19 vaccine “based on Moderna’s data.” 

Intellectual Property (IP) Rights

Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines was able to produce its own version of the vaccine after the WHO “advised them to copy Moderna’s vaccine in part because the company… has said it will not enforce its COVID-19 patents during the pandemic.” In accordance with Moderna’s statement, the World Trade Organization (WTO) is reportedly discussing an agreement that would “waive intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines and treatments during the pandemic.” This waiver will be crucial to countries that “lack vaccine manufacturing and research” by providing them with the necessary tools to immunize a greater number of people.

India and South Africa initiated this agreement and it received support from more than 100 countries, including WHO and UNAIDS. If this waiver comes to fruition, it will allow low-income countries with low vaccination rates, like many regions in Africa, to potentially produce their own and distribute a much greater number of doses. As of May 2021, the U.S., Russia and China all issued their support for an intellectual property waiver on COVID-19 vaccines.

Large Pharmaceutical Firms Building Facilities in Africa

In addition, a few large pharmaceutical companies have agreed to build manufacturing plants in different areas of Africa. Companies such as BioNTech and Moderna have made recent strides to support COVID-19 vaccine production in Africa. The German company BioNTech worked with the U.S.-based company Pfizer to produce its mRNA vaccine, and it has announced plans to build vaccine production facilities in Rwanda and Senegal. In March 2022, Moderna signed an agreement with Kenya’s government. The plan is to build a vaccine manufacturing plant in the country, which is to be Moderna’s first plant in Africa. The biotech company also stated that its landmark goal is to “produce up to 500 million doses of vaccines a year” which will go specifically to the continent of Africa.

Investments from the African Development Bank (ADB)

To offer more support for COVID-19 vaccination production in Africa, the African Development Bank announced “plans to invest up to $3 billion to support the pharmaceutical industry over 10 years.” It stated that funds will go towards improving transportation and infrastructure, medicines regulation and pharmaceuticals manufacturing (which includes vaccines). Additionally, African Union member states made a commitment to producing 60% of “routinely used vaccines” at home within the next 20 years. 

– Ashley Kim

Photo: Flickr

Vaccine Access for Brazil
During the pandemic, many governments have worked independently and together to combat the virus and provide vaccinations for citizens in their states. However, Brazil has proven itself to be an exception, as vaccine access for Brazil was incredibly limited due to the president’s resistance. However, as of June 2022, 80% of the population is now vaccinated, and this rate is higher than the world average.

How President Bolsonaro is Infringing on Vaccination Rights and Access

Brazil operates on a universal health system that guarantees public access to necessary vaccines. In fact, vaccination rights have constitutional protection and the government has a legal duty to ensure them. As in all other countries, the circumstances that the pandemic caused generated an urgent need for vaccines, requiring a rapid, planned response by government authorities. However, President Bolsonaro failed to make COVID-19 mitigation a political priority throughout the country. He turned his back on science to endanger the health and lives of Brazilians and adopted policies that placed their health at great risk. One of his main methods involved spreading false information about COVID-19.

President Bolsonaro also opposed social distancing, refused to wear a mask, and regularly shook hands with his supporters. His ultimate goal was to achieve herd immunity in Brazil by allowing the disease to spread. Additionally, he deliberately refused to follow WHO recommendations and sought to block officials from following COVID-19 mitigation guidelines, vetoing legal mask mandates. President Bolsonaro’s failure to prioritize the health of his citizens shows his disregard for human rights amid a global pandemic. Thankfully, however, other actors were eager to take this task into their own hands.

ANVISA’s Crucial Role in Vaccine Access

Now, more than 80% of the Brazilian population has received COVID-19 vaccines. These vaccinations have undergone successful distribution through the National Immunization Program. Yet, distributing these vaccines was not easy — rather, President Bolsonaro’s neglect of public health guidance made distribution more complicated. The main actor behind vaccination distribution was ANVISA, the Brazilian Health Surveillance Agency. ANVISA works with the Ministry of Health, which is responsible for controlling and regulating health-related products in Brazil.

The Ministry issued several regulations to enable the distribution of emergency vaccines, but it lagged in its development of a national COVID-19 vaccination plan. Thus, ANVISA took matters into its own hands and negotiated vaccine access for Brazil with willing and available manufacturers. However, the Ministry’s standstill is understandable, considering President Bolsonaro’s eagerness to undermine the pandemic and the fear that officials would receive negative retaliation for combatting the virus. Because of this fear, the ministry lost the trust of many Brazilian citizens. Therefore, ANVISA was able to quickly gain public trust and vaccine access for Brazil because of its administrative independence, financial autonomy and the stability of its leaders and technical personnel. Additionally, it gave scientifically supported and unbiased solutions and technical decisions.

ANVISA’s role has proven to be incredibly crucial. It has issued emergency regulations and analyzed requests for the emergency use of vaccines, demonstrating its thought processes through open, public meetings. ANVISA presented every decision to the Brazilian community, which increased public trust in the approved vaccines.

Struggles to Access COVID-19 Vaccines

Acquiring these vaccines was difficult, as one of the only allowed options was the Sputnik V vaccine, which initially did not receive approval from ANVISA and therefore could not be imported to and used in Brazil. In the meantime, ANVISA worked with local Brazilian governments to negotiate for vaccine access and advance other non-pharmacological efforts to control the pandemic and spread trusted and accurate public health information. Some of these efforts included partial lockdowns and social distancing, for example. These efforts generated more public trust, which paved the way for the eventual vaccination campaign.

ANVISA’s technical performance and consistent course of action eventually assisted local governments in importing safe, effective vaccines and increasing community trust in products, thus improving vaccine access for Brazil. One such process involved giving the Russian COVID-19 vaccine a chance, despite concerns because otherwise, there would not be enough vaccines. Despite safety concerns, ANVISA allowed Sputnik vaccines into Brazil, importing 928,000 doses. Even though this is just a fraction of the total that Brazil requested, it went a long way. However, importing the Sputnik vaccine meant that stringent measures to monitor the vaccine’s safety had to undergo implementation.

Now, Brazil can selectively import vaccines that specific countries have approved for emergency use. It is now restricting Sputnik imports and monitoring them closely. Only healthy adults are eligible for the Sputnik shots and vaccine distributors within Brazil must specify that the vaccine is a Sputnik vaccine.


The COVID-19 pandemic revealed, overall, that Brazil’s federal government was not ready to deal with an international public health emergency — a lack of governance and political influence over science prevented the Ministry of Health from vaccinating the country, but thankfully, ANVISA’s consistency in action assisted local governments in eventually vaccinating most of the country. This demonstrates the cruciality of administrative autonomy in organizations and the abilities that such organizations have in implementing policies and actions that help preserve the health of an entire country.

– Shiloh Harrill
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

From November 29 to December 1, 2021, the Philippines vaccinated 7.6 million people in three days. This was part of a mass vaccination campaign called “Bayanihan, Bakunahan.” The intense Philippines vaccination drive exceeded expectations by about 200,000 vaccines. A second wave of the “Bayanihan Bakunahan” campaign ran later in December.

According to Our World in Data, the Philippines lags behind the global average for the vaccinated population. However, the Philippines vaccination drive shows a stark improvement from the beginning of the year.  At that time, vaccines were scarcely available. The government hopes to have 77 million fully vaccinated. Filipinos by the end of the first quarter of 2022. Here are some facts about the Philippine’s mass vaccination program.

The Philippine’s Mass Vaccination Program

  1. COVID-19 Vaccines: The Philippines has approved eight COVID-19 vaccines for usage. The vaccines include Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. Vaccines from other countries include China’s Sinovac and Sinopharm, Russia’s Sputnik V, the United Kingdom’s AstraZeneca and India’s Bharat BioTech. The vaccines range in efficacy from 51% to 95%, but the Philippine government encourages vaccination by any brand despite variance in efficacy. The vaccine variety helps ensure there is vaccine availability in the case of delayed shipments or shortages. The Philippine government purchased most of these doses from their respective producers. It also received more than 53 million doses through the COVAX initiative.
  2. Vaccine Access: There was easy access to vaccination due to 8,000 vaccination centers being open across the Philippines. Even during Typhoon Odette, which hit during the Philippines vaccination drive, the Department of Health vaccinated millions of people. To hit the government target of fully vaccinating 77 million Filipinos by the end of March 2022,  local vaccination centers have extended their hours to remain open on weekends.
  3. Vaccine Hesitancy: Vaccine hesitancy has been decreasing in the Philippines. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many Filipinos have been concerned about the safety of the vaccine due to a controversy over the government rollout of a dengue vaccine in 2017. With time, seeing that adverse reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine are very rare, people are becoming willing to get vaccinated.

Lagging Vaccination During Philippines Vaccination Drive

Vaccination rates in the Philippines still lag behind the rest of the world. The pandemic pushed millions of Filipinos into poverty. The Philippines Statistics Authority reported 3.9 million more people living in poverty since 2018. Some blame the pandemic lockdowns. These reduced economic demands and therefore jobs. However, as a result of the Philippines vaccination drive, cases have been dropping so the government has been able to ease restrictions. While the Omicron variant may disrupt this progress, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has encouraged vaccination as the best protection against illness and death from COVID-19.

Expanding Vaccination Access

One next step for the Philippines is to expand vaccination across all population groups.  Another step is to begin providing booster shots to the fully vaccinated. On December 22, the Philippines approved the Pfizer vaccine to vaccinate children aged 5-11. The government also recently shortened the interval between the second and third doses, which will allow people to receive a booster dose after three months.

The Philippines vaccination drive has increased interest in vaccination. This interest has kept many temporary vaccination sites opened during the drive stay open. With President Duterte’s adamant pleas for Filipinos to get vaccinated, similar vaccination drives will likely take place again and inch the country closer to herd immunity.

– Emma Tkacz
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 Vaccination in Qatar
Located on the waters of the Persian Gulf, Qatar has an estimated COVID-19 vaccination rate of about 87%, administering more than 4.9 million doses to its people. It is a population percentage much higher than a number of other countries, including the United States, where just 59% of U.S. citizens are fully vaccinated.


Qatar has fewer than 2.5 million inhabitants, more comparable to U.S. states like New Mexico or Kansas. Additionally, it seems that a higher vaccination rate has made a difference when it comes to the Middle Eastern country’s efforts to fight COVID-19. Cases are currently at around 8% of what Qatar had during its time of peak infections, dating back to May 2020 when there were a reported 2,300 new infections each day.

According to Qatar’s government communications office, the country has reported some 150 new coronavirus cases by late November 2021, with more than 100 of those afflicted ultimately recovering. Since the start of the pandemic, Qatar has reported a total of 242,000 cases, with 239,000 recoveries and 611 deaths.

Qatar’s infection rate has climbed a bit in recent weeks. Additionally, while the country’s efforts are better than some of its neighbors, like Yemen — which had climbed to 11% of its peak before dropping again — Qatar is behind others, including Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman and the United Arab Emirates, which reported between 1% and 2% of their respective peaks.

Bahrain, for example, averages a little more than 20 new infections per day in a recent week, with 87% of the country completely vaccinated. Saudi Arabia has more than 35 new infections each day with 69% fully vaccinated. Oman is averaging about seven new infections daily with a 59% vaccination rate.

The UAE reported just fewer than 80 new infections each day with a vaccination rate of more than 100%. Yet, Yemen has kept its numbers mostly under control — reporting a half-dozen new infections each day despite just a little more than 1% of its population being fully vaccinated.


The U.S. has shared with those living or visiting Qatar the precautions the country has implemented since July 2020 to help limit the spread of the coronavirus there. That includes a little bit of technology — a smartphone app called Ehteraz used for contact tracing.

The country also limits the number of people allowed in cars, and how far athletes can travel to participate in sports. Of course, there are requirements for face masks and social distancing. Anyone not abiding by these rules faces stiff fines and potential jail time.

Qatar is currently in what it describes as its fourth phase of reopening, allowing some gatherings and small groups, and the elimination of masks in open public places, except where otherwise required — like in organized public events, schools and mosques.

Currently, the State Department has a travel heath advisory of Level 3 due to the number of COVID-19 cases in the country. It advises anyone entering the country to be fully vaccinated.

Vaccine Distribution

Despite what appears to be high COVID-19 vaccination rates in Qatar, a study published in the National Library of Medicine in May 2021 suggests about 20% of the country’s population does not want the coronavirus vaccine. Surveys occurred in November 2020, before vaccines had received government approvals in many countries, including the United States, and when people were still building knowledge about the safety of the vaccine. The survey involved more than 7,800 adults.

Since then, Qatar has approved the Pfizer vaccine for emergency use and is available to everyone for free. However, the Qatari government recommends those at higher risk — such as the elderly, those with chronic medical conditions, as well as health care workers — are first in line.

COVID-19’s Impact on Qatar’s Economy and People

The effects of COVID-19 have, for obvious reasons, reduced worldwide travel. This has led to OPEC reporting its lowest demand for oil in 30 years. The heaviest impacted sectors of Qatari society include manufacturing, real estate and transportation. Finance and construction also have experienced a moderate impact on Qatar’s expected gross domestic product, according to KPMG International.

How Qatar is Doing its Part

During the Global Vaccine Summit in June 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic was at its worst, Qatar pledged the equivalent of $20 million in U.S. currency to GAVI. GAVI is an international vaccine organization that intends to help underserved countries in the world through the global COVAX initiative.

The money Qatar donated was double its earlier pledge of $10 million that lasted from 2016-2020. The money from 2016-2020 went directly to GAVI with no funding for COVAX. GAVI will distribute the money evenly with $10 million going to funding GAVI’s core programs from 2021-2025 and the other $10 million will help finance the COVAX AMC initiative10.

COVID-19 vaccination in Qatar is at remarkably high levels. The vaccine and other measures still in place in the country have dramatically reduced the number of active and new coronavirus cases in the country to a fraction of their peaks in the summer of 2020.

– Julian Smith
Photo: Unsplash

COVID-19's Impact on Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone is a nation in recovery. As with many countries throughout the globe, COVID-19 has left a lasting mark on the West African nation. In a June to October 2020 survey that Innovations for Poverty Action in Sierra Leone implemented, nearly 50% of respondents reported income reductions and about 60% of respondents reported depleting their savings to secure food for the household. However, in the wake of COVID-19’s impact on Sierra Leone, some sectors are regaining strength.

The After-Effects of COVID-19

Sierra Leone went into lockdown quickly in response to the initial outbreak of the novel coronavirus within its borders in March 2020, declaring a state of emergency prior to any confirmation of infection. Rapid policy changes followed, restricting travel and putting into place extensive testing programs which, coupled with a high level of social compliance, brought the infection and death rates to an early plateau. This impressive effort in containment came at a great economic cost, however, with the nation’s GDP contracting around 3.1% in 2020.

Revitalizing the Economy

Forecasts predict that Sierra Leone’s GDP will grow roughly 4% by the end of 2021, eclipsing the contraction of 2020, with further acceleration predictions in 2022. This projected growth links to a renewed demand for exports, particularly in the country’s mining sector.

World Bank experts state that sustaining this growth will require structural reform, strong monetary policy and a robust vaccination program, allowing businesses and employees alike to return to full-capacity operations both quickly and safely.

To that end, “the World Bank approved an $8.5 million grant” in June 2021 to further vaccination efforts in Sierra Leone, building upon an earlier $7.5 million monetary injection provided by the International Development Association in 2020 to shore up economic deficits resulting from COVID-19’s impact on Sierra Leone. Additionally, The Sierra Leone Central Bank announced a redenomination of the national currency in an effort to combat inflation. However, not all efforts for economic regrowth fall within the confines of the financial sector.

US Assistance

Sierra Leone saw a marked increase in poverty as a result of wage depression and job loss stemming from the pandemic, particularly in urban areas. The remediation of economic damages in these areas is an important step in breathing new life into the Sierra Leonean economy.

The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a U.S. government-funded agency dedicating efforts to international growth and development, is working to do just that. The MCC completed a $44.4 million project “to improve the water and electrical services in and around Freetown,” Sierra Leone’s capital and largest urban center, in March 2021. The MCC has recently begun talks with government representatives and the private sector to make further, larger investments in the nation’s growth in the form of an economic compact.

Further Help for Citizens in Need

In August 2021, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) announced a new program specifically focusing on aiding women and youth affected by COVID’s impact on Sierra Leone. The program will provide grants of $60,000 to $140,000 for distribution by NGOs to women and youth-operated businesses in both rural and urban areas that were forced to scale down or cease operations during the pandemic. The aim is to bring these businesses back into the marketplace and stimulate the local economy. These efforts work in concert with Sierra Leone’s internal efforts to help the nation get back onto its feet in the post-pandemic environment.

Mining Sector Leads Growth

With a return to pre-pandemic GDP levels in sight, Sierra Leone hopes to continue growth in 2022. Forecasts predict the nation’s GDP to grow by as much as 5% by 2022, outpacing its sub-Saharan neighbors, which could grow to 1% to 2% less over the same period. The country’s mining sector is a strong driver of the national economy accounting for 3% of national employment in 2018 as well as “65% of export earnings.” The mining sector is on track for a 34% overall increase, led by a predicted 850% increase in demand for iron ore over 2020.

With such a major market component leading the way, other economic areas may expect revitalization as well. In the agricultural sector, employing about two-thirds of Sierra Leone’s workforce, the government encourages mining companies’ investment in communities local to their operations, furthering citizens’ access to food as well as gainful employment. Predictions estimate that the domestic construction and energy industries, both with close links to mining infrastructure, may see growth as well. This combined push for economic renewal assures better days to come for the sub-Saharan nation.

A Bright Future Ahead

Through ongoing foreign support and careful economic measures, Sierra Leone hopes to breathe new life into industries ravaged by COVID-19. With a renewed encouragement of domestic business, the nation looks to bring its citizens forward into a thriving economy and a safer, healthier society. The culmination of these efforts is proving clear less than two years after the nation’s first lockdown with a strong reemergence from the trials of COVID-19’s impact on Sierra Leone, promising a brighter tomorrow for the Sierra Leonean people.

– Alexander Diaz
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Many consider Taiwan’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic to be a success story. Even with a population of 23 million and proximity to China, the island nation managed to avoid aggressive lockdowns and to date has reported only 846 deaths. The success of Taiwan is due in large part to the government’s immediate and effective response that in turn demonstrated a sense of seriousness in the public’s response to mask mandates and contact tracing protocols. Additionally, Taiwan’s vaccine rollout is well on its way in order to help curb the spread of COVID-19.

A Successful Approach

After the first confirmed case on January 21, 2020, Taiwan implemented a contact tracing program that tracks the travel and contact history of each patient. Using strict quarantine procedures for travelers coming into the country, health officials can rapidly identify and separate the at-risk and infectious individuals.

To ensure its citizens have easy access to personal protective equipment (PPE), the Taiwanese government increased the production of surgical-grade masks by 850% and shipped them to stores nationwide at a low cost. Taiwan also benefited from its public health campaign that informed the public twice a day of changes to travel and quarantine policies, along with healthcare response efforts and other relevant information.

Vaccination Rates At a Glance

As of September 8, 2021, 45.2% of Taiwan’s population has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, while 4.3% have received both doses. Data indicates that vaccines administered per 100 people from July 5 to August 12, 2021, remained above 0.4%.

The number of vaccine doses administered continues to climb as Taiwan’s vaccine rollout widens. Similar to their pandemic response, the Taiwanese government has taken several steps to assure its citizens have access to the vaccine.

Homegrown Fight

On Monday, August 23, 2021, Taiwan kick-started its vaccine rollout for the domestically developed coronavirus vaccine after President Tsai Ing-wen received her first dose. The Medigen Vaccine Biologics Corp developed the vaccine, which received emergency approval on July 19, 2021.

Phase 2 clinical trials showed no major safety concerns and produce 3.4 times the level of antibodies compared to the AstraZeneca vaccine. Phase 3 trials had received confirmation to begin by July 2021, in hopes of having the vaccine receive international recognition.

To date, Taiwan’s government has purchased 5 million doses of the Medigen vaccine, with large numbers of younger Taiwanese citizens and foreigners signing up for vaccination.

International Help

Taiwan has not been alone in its effort to vaccinate its population. International allies like Japan and the U.S. have donated roughly 5 million vaccines to date. Poland and Lithuania have also donated 400,000 and 20,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccines respectfully.

The Taiwanese government has also signed contracts to purchase 20 million vaccines including 5.05 million doses from Moderna, 10 million of AstraZeneca and 4.76 million doses through the COVAX initiative. As a result of Taiwan’s effective pandemic response and vaccine rollout, life in Taiwan has been able to maintain some normalcy. Not surprisingly, many hail Taiwan’s response as a pandemic success story.

– Sal Huizar
Photo: Flickr