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What’s next for Africa after Covid-19 patent rights waiver?

Jul 05, 2022
Category: News

The recent World Trade Organization (WTO) deal on 17 June 2022 in Geneva agreed at wavering COVID-19 vaccines Patent rights for developing countries to developing vaccines using intellectual property rights for vaccines without getting the permission from the patent holder (WT/MIN(22)/W/15/Rev.2.). Vaccines prevent diseases and ultimately reduce poverty as a healthy populace is a productive asset. The World Health Assembly endorsed the Immunisation Agenda 2030 (IA2030) which envisions a world where everyone, and everywhere, fully benefits from vaccines.

This was despite the serious objections from some of the countries that host major pharmaceutical companies, like Britain, Switzerland, and the European Union who argued that insisting that stripping patents will cripple investment and innovation. South Africa had led a twenty-month fight for the rights of developing countries to manufacture and access vaccines, tests, and treatments. This development presents a window of opportunity for African countries to be proactive in mitigating a potential covid crisis that might occur moving forward.

Countries in Africa need to acquire the know-how to develop covid-19 vaccines. Therefore, upgrading its manufacturing technology is critical for Africa to manufacture their own vaccines. Currently, eight countries manufacture vaccines in Africa. Of the eight, five countries (Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, and Botswana) plan to start manufacturing covid-19 vaccines. Africa was last to begin rolling out COVID vaccines as demand outstripped the supply resulting in developed countries using their financial muscle to get the vaccines first. In improving access to COVID-19 vaccines across Africa, the African Union started the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT) with a mandate to secure vaccine doses that complement other initiatives such as COVAX. AVAT aspires to immunize  60% of Africa’s population. At the African Union Level, the African vaccine initiative is prioritising procuring vaccines from African suppliers. Increasing Africa's manufacturing capacity is critical to hedge against shortages when vaccine demand is high.

Currently, South Africa is one of the countries in Africa with the capacity to develop covid-19 vaccines.  After the developed countries vaccinated their populace, there is now an oversupply of vaccines in Africa as the continent now receives two-thirds of its vaccines from the COVAX sharing program. According to South African president Cyril Ramaphosa, "African countries should support African manufacturers of covid vaccines". Currently, one vaccination facility in South Africa is on the verge of closure as it is not receiving vaccine orders. despite these challenges Africa has to ensure that it increases its facilities that produce covid-19 vaccines to avoid another covid pandemic.

Therefore, Africa has to ensure that vaccine uptake increases through massive vaccination campaigns that counter the misinformation that the content has faced. The pandemic worsened poverty and exacerbated inequality in Africa, a scenario that requires redress mechanisms that makes Africa own its development trajectory.


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