JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – The African Union is backing calls for drugmakers to give up some intellectual property rights to COVID-19 drugs and vaccines in order to speed up their deployment in poor countries, said Thursday the head of his disease control body.
South Africa and India, which manufacture both drugs and vaccines, made the proposal last year to the World Trade Organization, saying intellectual property (IP) rules prevent the urgent intensification of vaccine production and supply of medical products to some patients.
They faced opposition from some developed countries, but support from the African Union could give new impetus to the attempt to relax intellectual property rules.
John Nkengasong, director of the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told a press conference that intellectual property transfers were a “win-win for everyone” that would address the huge inequalities in the world. global public health.
He gave two examples where the developing world had suffered from limited access to medicines: the swine flu pandemic in the late 2000s and HIV / AIDS in the 1990s.
“In 1996 anti-HIV drugs were available and we saw how mortality in developed countries has dropped dramatically. But it would take 10 years before these drugs were significantly accessible in Africa, ”he said.
“In between, 12 million Africans have died, so I’m just using these numbers to say: any transfer of intellectual property will be good for everyone, because no one wants to sit down and be proud of this sad event. … We want to be on the right side of history.
Meanwhile, WHO Director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti has urged pharmaceutical companies to be flexible with their intellectual property to facilitate access to medicines.
She hoped that discussions on waiving intellectual property rights “would turn into action at some point in the future.”
Nkengasong added that the CDC’s regulatory task force for Africa had approved AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, a day after Ghana received its first doses of AstraZeneca from the global distribution facility for COVAX vaccines.
He said the developers of the Russian vaccine Sputnik V had submitted data dossiers to the African CDC and that a panel of experts would review them.
“We have not yet received files from Chinese colleagues, but we remain optimistic,” he added.
Egypt, Zimbabwe and Senegal have already started deploying Chinese COVID-19 fire.
Reporting by Alexander Winning in Johannesburg and Omar Mohammed and Ayenat Mersie in Nairobi; Edited by Joe Bavier, Mark Potter and Hugh Lawson