President Paul Kagame has said that process to start a center of vaccines manufacturing in Rwanda was not triggered by COVID-19 pandemic, but is part of self-sustainability and finding solutions for African problems.
Rwanda, in recent days announced plans to start manufacturing vaccines.
Latest development is a partnership with BioNTech, a vaccine manufacturing company which is seeking to launch a branch in Rwanda and Senegal.
In an interview at Rwanda Television today, the president said that vaccines’ manufacturing is not an idea that Rwanda drew from COVID-19 experience, but was there even before the pandemic.
“We did not think about a vaccine manufacturing plant because of COVID-19, but self-sustainability,” the president said during the interview.
“You have heard of made in Rwanda, made in Africa, everyone has what they commit to do in this context.”
Also coming back to the context of COVID-19, the president said that the vaccine started with developed countries while Africa and developing countries had to wait longer, which worsened the situation.
“This was a reminder that in Africa, when we have a problem people have to come from outside to help. But in other instances, the problem is within Africa-case of Ebola, but COVID-19 is a general issue,” Kagame said.
“Thus Rwanda thought about this manufacturing plant eyeing a wider market, not just Rwanda itself.”
The manufacturing plant may produce among other COVID-19, Malaria vaccines, among others.
The proposal of Rwanda to manufacture vaccines, was welcomed by relevant institutions that are tasked with evaluation.
“We were able to show precedents that we are able,” said the president adding that the way Rwanda conducted business in respect of COVID-19 preventive measures was a good indication that the country can.
Journalists brough the issue of imbalance distribution of vaccines between the poor and the rich countries.
“We are trying to see how we can narrow that gap which exists,” the president said.
“Some countries have been getting vaccines from the generosity of those that have them, but COVAX, GAVVI and WHO are also working hard to assure that the vaccines are available for everyone.”
The president said that’s how even Rwanda has acquired some vaccines.
“I think this is how we have now reached 20% of our target. Others are about 3%, 5%, others are around Rwanda’s level. It has been too frustrating. It is causing too discomfort. We are continuing to use whatever means to get vaccines, including donations because Africa is still at the lowest end.
According to Sabin Nsanzimana, Director General of Rwanda Biomedical Centre(RBC) which executes vaccination programs under Ministry of health, vaccination in Rwanda is bearing fruits.
“As COVID-19 mass vaccination continues across Rwanda—new data suggest cases and hospitalizations are declining significantly. Positivity rate in City of Kigali down to 0.7% from 5%—Many thanks to all involved.”
The media further wished to know whether Rwanda will consider COVID-19 vaccine mandatory, but the president said that the vaccines are not even enough for those who need it, so there is no argument about making it mandatory.
“The biggest problem for us now is to get the supply of vaccines,” Kagame said.
The president further said, that instead, some countries are making it mandatory for travelers in their country to be vaccinated.
“In that context, one would feel compelled to get the vaccine if they want to travel, but it won’t be mandatory as far as we are concerned.”