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NAIROBI, May 6 (Reuters) – The African Union health agency on Thursday welcomed US President Joe Biden’s decision to waive intellectual property rights to COVID-19 vaccines, but he advised showing evidence patience because this decision would take time to materialize.
“This is a very good step in the right direction (against the global pandemic). But the results will not be tomorrow,” John Nkengasong, head of the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a briefing. “What we urgently need now are vaccines that we can put into people’s arms while building our own manufacturing capacity.”
Africa, a continent of 1.3 billion people where most health care is insufficient, is struggling to immunize its population.
As of May 4, 37.6 million doses of vaccine had been acquired by African countries, of which about 20.2 million had been administered, representing a coverage rate of 1.14%, according to data from the Africa CDC.
Access to vaccines and some reluctance to take them among the general public have been significant factors in the low level of immunization, analysts said. Read more
Biden on Wednesday approved calls for a vaccine patent waiver in a brutal reversal of the U.S. position, bowing to mounting pressure from his own Democratic Party lawmakers and more than 100 other countries. But this decision has shocked the big pharmaceutical companies that produce vaccines. Read more
South Africa and India took the first step towards a vaccine waiver at the World Trade Organization in October, garnering support from a large number of developing countries who see it as a step vital to making vaccines more widely available.
“Now this is a victory for South Africa. It shows the influence we have as a country, working with others, that our voices and our messages carry weight,” said Thursday the South African President Cyril Ramaphosa in parliament.
“Such a waiver should facilitate the effective transfer of intellectual property.”
Nkengasong said there are countries on the continent like Senegal, South Africa, Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt with the platforms to produce vaccines, but they need support for it. To do. “With the right partnership, we can make it happen.”
Implementing a waiver can take months as the World Trade Organization will require a consensus of its 164 member states.
Nkengasong called on nations skeptical of such a move to be on the right side of history.
“As a continent, when it is all over, and it will be over, we are a resilient continent, we will not only remember the loud voices of those who did not support us, but we will also remember the silence of our friends in this battle. “
Omar Mohammed report in Nairobi; additional reporting by Alexander Winning in Johannesburg Editing by Mark Heinrich
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