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Patent restrictions likely to hinder quick access to COVID vaccines in Africa

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Fear is mounting in Africa over patent restrictions which are likely to hinder the speedy distribution of the coronavirus vaccines, a matter which health professionals on the continent say should be relooked at.

Speaking during a live webinar organized by the World Health Organization (WHO) together with APO Group, Perpetual Ofori Ampofo, General Secretary of Ghana Registered Nurses and Midwives Association said many Africans could miss out on the vaccines due to patent restrictions.

Few global biotechnology companies are producing the vaccine at a rate lower than demand due to the global nature of the pandemic.

“African countries are being left behind. They are not getting enough doses as quickly as they should in comparison to the spread of the pandemic across the continent. These patents need to be made public. That way, there will be mass production of the vaccine hence it will be able to reach everyone who needs it,” said Ofori.

WHO predicts Africa to record in excess of four million cases in the near future with a mortality rate of over 106,000. Currently, the continent records in excess of 70,000 new cases daily with countries such as Algeria and Kenya recording an upsurge.

Despite the third wave of infections sweeping across the world, countries are banking on vaccination. WHO estimates the continent has received 14.8 million doses delivered to 22 countries out of which, 19 have begun vaccinating having administered 550,000 dosses.

With the vaccination of healthcare workers getting vaccinated across the continent, Ofori says the process has been met with hesitation across the continent. The hesitation from lack of trust in the system.

Ofori insisted that, “we need to invest in infrastructure and personnel development. This will divert money used to buy vaccines into local research and development. That way, Africans will be more receptive to the vaccine since they know it’s locally produced by local doctors who understand their genealogy, epidemiology, climatology and immunology.”

WHO Africa pointed out that priority must also be given to old people and people with underlying conditions such as obesity, hypertension and diabetes among others as they have a high mortality rate upon contracting COVID-19.

According to Matshidiso Rebecca Natalie Moeti, the WHO Africa Regional director, “people aged 65 years and above account for a third of Covid 19 deaths in Africa. This is despite the fact that they account for a small fraction of infections signaling high mortality rates. ”

So far more than 326 million doses have been administered across 121 countries, said WHO and the latest rate was roughly 8.35 million doses a day.

In the U.S., more Americans have received at least one dose with the administration of 95.7 million doses countrywide.

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