Efforts to combat the great global inequality access to Covid-19 vaccines has just been boosted. A Cape Town company claims so successfully made a vaccine that mimics Moderna’s messenger RNA vaccine – without help from Moderna. This copy will still have to undergo clinical trials, but efforts may provide Africa’s first Covid-19 vaccine.
So far, African factories have been cut out of efforts to produce Covid-19 vaccines and largely limited to filling and labeling of bottles with drug substance manufactured elsewhere. As a result, as vaccines were in short supply globally, Africans were forced to wait. When they arrived, there were often vaccines dumped on overburdened public health systems at very short notice, in some cases close to theirs expired date.
Strive for Masiyiwa, the African Union Special Envoy to the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team, and a prominent businessman described his experience of buying vaccines on behalf of the continent, “I met all the manufacturers in December (2020) and said we would like to buy some vaccines. We had money, we were willing to pay in cash. We did not ask for donations, and they said all capacity for 2021 was sold … the people who bought the vaccines knew there would be nothing (left) for us. ”
To date, there have been 10 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines administered globally, including up to fire doses per person in some places. But in the world’s least developed countries, only 10 percent of people have access to even a single dose. While most healthcare workers in the rich world were vaccinated in early 2021, a study by the World Health Organization found that only a quarter of Africa’s health workers had received their Covid-19 jabs by the end of last year. In the Democratic Republic of Congo and Chad, even today, less than 1 percent of the population are vaccinated.
The South African company working on the copy, Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines, hopes to change this dynamic by building greater production capacity on the continent. If all goes according to plan, Afrigen will begin its clinical trials in 2023. It’s still a long way off. It is worth noting that experts agree, it did not have to be that way. If Africa had been able to get a technology transfer, it says, it could have produced a vaccine suitable for trials months ago.
If, for example, the US and German governments had used their influence to pressure Moderna, Pfizer and BioNTech to share their Covid-19 vaccine recipes and know-how, Africa and a host of other potential producers in Africa, Latin America and Asia would have already been able to to join the global effort to make enough doses for everyone, everywhere.
But when Human Rights Watch asked Moderna about its approach to technology, broader, representatives are transferred replied it the company was “not aware of any available mRNA production capacity” and that the transfer of their technology “requires significant time from a limited pool of experienced staff with the necessary expertise.” Instead, Moderna has promised “investing in a state-of-the-art mRNA production facility in Africa”, which it claims will eventually produce up to 500 million doses annually, estimation three years to get a plant up and running.
On the other hand, Africa hopes in the end transfer the skills and technology of its vaccine to factories throughout Africa and even train companies in Argentina and Brazil also. Experts already have identified over 100 facilities that could manufacture mRNA vaccines right now. Eight of them are on the African continent
Moderna has not yet commented on Africa’s breakthrough. WHO technology transfer hub to catalyze the effort does not intend to “violate”On patents. Africa’s CEO has on their side said“this is not Moderna’s vaccine, this is the Afrigen mRNA hub vaccine.” They also point to one obligation from Moderna that it will not enforce its Covid-19-related patents against those who manufacture vaccines to combat the pandemic. But the MSF Access Campaign has expressed worries that Moderna retains the right to decide when they believe the pandemic is over and patent enforcement resumes.
Africa’s leap forward comes in the midst of renewal awareness to India and South Africa’s plea to relinquish some intellectual property rights until everyone everywhere has access to vaccines. That African Union has thrown its weight behind the proposal and the Biden administration Supported the idea, at least for vaccines, in 2021. Negotiations have continued to stall in the World Trade Organization due to. short-term resistance from the European Union. If a dispensation has been adopted this month by some diplomats hope it could help shield Africa’s vaccine and make it easier to make more of the Covid-19 treatments, tests and vaccines we all need.
Africa’s success focuses on a failure for global solidarity. Africa’s scientists should not have to go it alone. Companies behind the brand name Covid-19 vaccines, Pfizer, Moderna and BioNTech should share their technology more widely, otherwise governments will have to make it happen.