ADDIS ABABA – African Union has welcomed the United States government’s positive response to South Africa and India’s call for the temporary waiver of intellectual property protections for Covid-19 vaccines at the World Trade Organization.
The Joe Biden administration announced Wednesday that it supports waiving intellectual property protections for Covid-19 vaccine patent to help speed the end of the pandemic, a shift that puts the U.S. alongside many in the developing world who want rich countries to do more to get doses to the needy..
In a statement, Moussa Faki Mahamat, The Chairperson of the AU Commission (AUC), commended the decision as important and said it shows Washington is assuming global leadership, alongside more than 100 countries.
Suspending patents and other intellectual property rights relevant to pharmaceuticals will remove legal barriers, allowing vaccine developers to enter the market more quickly without worrying about the prospect of litigation over potential infringements of intellectual property rights.
It will also mean vaccines manufactured in one country can be exported to others without having to navigate a legal maze, according to experts.
US’s decision helps to “end the most devastating global public health crisis in living memory, by supporting the South Africa and India-led proposal to temporarily suspend rules on intellectual property rights on Covid-19 vaccines”, AU said in a statement.
AUC’s Chairperson has urged all countries that have not yet done so, to urgently support this historic initiative of multilateral cooperation to ensure equitable vaccine protection for the entire global community.
Hopes surge for boosted vaccine supply after U.S. voices support for waiving patents, even as uncertainty remains.
As of this week, less than half a million people in Africa had been fully vaccinated, while less than 10 million had received a first dose, according to the World Health Organization.
Most of the continent has avoided the huge death tolls seen in Western countries because of a combination of factors ranging from swift imposition of lockdowns to its relative lack of inclusion in global networks of travel and trade, among others.
As of Today, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Africa has reached 4,627,257 as of Sunday, said AU’s Disease Control agency or Africa CDC that put the death toll from the pandemic stands at 124,202. At least 4,178,595 patients across the continent have recovered from the disease.