Middle and low-income countries have taken the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic, with most of their population yet to be vaccinated.
In an effort to provide greater access to the vaccines by poorer countries, the World Health Organization (WHO) has announced an initiative to help these countries manufacture their own vaccines.
At a recent news conference, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus said the COVID-19 pandemic has shown it is dangerous to depend on a few manufacturers for vaccines.
“The inequitable access to vaccines has demonstrated that in a crisis, low-income countries cannot rely on vaccine-producing countries to supply their needs,” said Dr. Ghebreyesus.
He further said, “We have seen it before with the HIV when people from low and middle-income countries couldn’t access lifesaving antiviral treatment. We have seen it with diabetes where insulin is priced high priced high despite having been around for more than a century.”
He added, “The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that relying on a few companies to supply global goods is limiting and dangerous.”
Dr. Tedros said, while the WHO continues to call for sharing of know-how and licenses and waiving of intellectual property rights, it is moving to build production capacity in developing countries through the technology transfer hub in South Africa.
He said the concept involves a company called Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines, which will manufacture mRNA vaccines and provide training to a second manufacturer, Biovac. It is hoped the initiative will be expanded to provide training to more manufacturers in Africa and other parts of the world.
Readers Bureau, Contributor
Edited by Jesus Chan
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