African Union hails US for 'remarkable' leadership on vaccine waiver

A medical worker prepares vaccination card for a person receiving a dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine at the Jabra Hospital in Sudan's capital Khartoum. AFP/Ebrahim Hamid

NAIROBI - The Africa Union's health watchdog on Thursday praised the United States' support for a waiver on patent protections for COVID-19 vaccines as a "remarkable expression of leadership".

"History will remember the move taken by the US government as doing the right thing at the right time to fight a terrible challenge which is unprecedented in our contemporary history," Dr John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), told a press conference.

READ: Vaccinating Africa against COVID-19: Riding a roller coaster of poor information

As poor countries struggle to get enough vaccine doses, Washington's Trade Representative Katherine Tai said on Wednesday the country "supports the waiver of those protections for Covid-19 vaccines".

"The extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures," she said in a statement.

Nkengasong hailed the move as "a remarkable expression of leadership and a very important development."

READ: G7 works on vaccine plan after pleas to help poor

"This development will continue to build a momentum necessary to enable us to achieve this goal. This is a step in the right direction," he said.

Supporters of the waiver say that easing patent restrictions will spur production of low-cost generic vaccines, helping poor countries that are struggling to immunise their people.

Opponents argue the move will damage intellectual property rights and erode the profit incentive, ultimately affecting pharmaceutical research and development.


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