Pres Ali pushes vaccine factory, research development as part of Guyana’s medical hub

…attends breaking of ground for BioNTech’s vaccine factory in Rwanda

With Guyana aiming to become a medical hub in the region, President Dr Irfaan Ali has stated that the country would be moving to develop the framework and infrastructure to not only build a vaccine factory, but to also encourage investors in medical research and development to come here.
The Head of State made this pronouncement on Thursday at the ground-breaking ceremony of COVID-19 vaccine maker BioNTech’s mRNA vaccine factory in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital city, where he has travelled for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

President Dr Irfaan Ali with Rwandan President Paul Kagame to his right and officials from BioNTech in Kigali, Rwanda

The vaccine facility is expected to enable the African nation to jump-start its own manufacturing, and according to President Ali, Guyana is hoping to do the same.
“Of course, for Guyana, this is the direction we want to head in. We want to be able to develop the framework and infrastructure to be able not only to build a similar facility in Guyana, but to encourage investors in research and development in the medical field as a whole to come to Guyana as a medical hub, in developing vaccines and developing a treatment for malaria, etc,” he stated.
But, to achieve this, the President noted, the “right” regulatory, legislative and institutional framework and the support of countries like Rwanda and Ghana, who have already chartered the way, will be required.
To this end, it has been noted that bilateral discussions on the way forward are already “on the agenda” with the two African nations.
“We can work with these countries in building our regulatory framework, our institutional framework, and developing the training facility that will ensure we have highly skilled and capable human resources to transition into this new field, and to transition into this new area of developmental opportunity that we want to bring to Guyana,” the Head of State has said.

Regional vaccine security
President Ali went on to remind that the COVID-19 pandemic has taught the importance of not only having access to vaccines, but to ensure that every region globally is vaccine-secure. It also highlighted the great inequality in not only the manufacturing of vaccines and the pricing, but also the distribution.
In order to combat these challenges, the President disclosed, Guyana and Barbados would be working “aggressively” together with the innovators, researchers, and developers in advancing this goal.
“Well, Prime Minister [of Barbados, Mia] Mottley and I had had some discussions already. And one of the things that we’re looking to do is to have the regulators and the Attorneys General for the countries look at our existing legal framework, look at our existing food and drugs administration, and to see how we can bridge the gap; and then to take the model out of Rwanda and Ghana, to incorporate that model in advancing our legislative framework to build a foundation that this industry can be built on,” the Guyanese Leader has said.
Such a facility in Guyana, the Head of State emphasised, would benefit the entire Caribbean Region as well as South America, and would provide access to many other vaccines utilising the technology.
“Well, it’s not only Guyana; we are an important hub: we are part of the Caribbean, we are a part of South America, we have a lot of trade agreements with a number of countries, and it is one to ensure that the region itself – Guyana and the region – has a facility that we can be dependent on in terms of crisis vaccines to respond to our own needs, to build our capacity, and also, more importantly, to make us vaccine-secure,” he posited.
The President further stated that the intention is to bring the local players in the pharmaceutical industry together in a consortium with the regional and international actors in order to generate the capacity needed.
He reminded that part of Guyana’s development trajectory in diversifying the economy is to invest in the knowledge sector, and to invest in health care and education as a great export earner for Guyana.
BioNTech’s mRNA said the initial vaccine factory in Kigali, made from an assembly kit and housed in shipping containers, would, over the next few years, become part of a wider supply network spanning several African nations, including Senegal and South Africa.
President Ali and First Lady Arya Ali travelled to Rwanda earlier this week to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), which is being held under the theme “Delivering a Common Future: Connecting, Innovating, Transforming”.
The official opening of the CHOGM will take place today. This will be followed by high-level meetings of leaders on Friday and Saturday. (G8)