African health officials were on Thursday celebrating what one called a “bold and wonderful” breakthrough after the Biden administration threw its weight behind a temporary suspension of intellectual property rights on Covid-19 vaccines.
African Union officials hope that at least three countries — South Africa, Senegal and Rwanda — will develop the capacity to produce vaccines for the continent, including the mRNA-type vaccines that emerged as an innovative technology against Covid-19.
John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, welcomed the US administration’s backing of an IP waiver, a position that is supported by dozens of developing countries led by South Africa and India.
It would, he said, “definitely be a great influence to facilitate the mRNA manufacturing agenda”, adding that there are “very focused discussions” about producing vaccines on the continent.
South Africa has some of the continent’s most advanced vaccine knowhow, including Aspen, a Durban-based company that plans to “finish and fill” — though not make from scratch — 300m doses of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine this year. The Pasteur Institute in Dakar, Senegal, also has vaccine-producing experience, making small quantities of yellow fever jabs each year.
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