A pedestrian passes artwork by the artist known as the Rebel Bear on a wall on Bath Street in Glasgow, England, in April 2020. Andrew Milligan/PA Images via Getty Images During a recent trip to London, I saw almost no one wearing a mask—except for American tourists, who were easily identifiable because they wore them…
Johannesburg, South Africa —
South Africa on Saturday hailed a WTO agreement to allow developing countries to start producing their own COVID vaccines following a near two-year battle.
“We secured an agreement. It was a strongly fought agreement,” said Minister of Trade Ebrahim Patel, who along with India and NGOs had been calling for an intellectual property rights waiver on COVID-related treatments.
The World Trade Organization (WTO) announced a relaxation of intellectual property restrictions on vaccines Wednesday in a move aimed at a providing more equitable access to shots but which many observers criticized for being limited in time and scope.
After months of wrangling, and talks going down to the wire this week to win over some major players in pharmaceutical manufacturing to a compromise, the United States and China finally clinched the deal by agreeing on which countries would benefit from the waiver.
Both South Africa and India had been vocal in their demands for such a move which they said was needed to stop “vaccine apartheid.”
According to the WTO, 60% of the world’s population has received two doses of the COVID vaccine but there are glaring examples of inequity with only 17% having been inoculated in Libya, with the figure at 8% in Nigeria and less than 5% in Cameroon.
In a statement, the South African government saluted a waiver designed to provide local vaccine manufacturers with the right to produce either vaccines or ingredients or elements that are under patents, without the authority of the patent holder, hailing this as a notable step forward — even if limited to five years.
Pretoria added that “to scale up the production on the continent, further partnerships will be needed including access to know-how and technologies.”
The accord for the time being excludes, however, tests and costly therapeutic treatments against COVID on which the WTO is to pronounce in the coming six months.
Commercialization in Africa will be a challenge, however.
Durban-based South African pharma giant Aspen, which clinched a deal last November with U.S.-based Johnson & Johnson to manufacture a “made in Africa for Africa” Aspen-branded COVID vaccine Aspenovax, said last month it could pull the plug owing to lack of orders.
“Our focus now is to ensure we address demand by persuading global procurers for vaccines to source from African producers,” said Patel.
South Africa has three sites under the aegis of Aspen in Durban, Afrigen in Cape Town and Biovac, also in Cape Town, which makes the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Afrigen’s biotech consortium makes the messenger RNA shot based on the Moderna formula, the first to be made based on a broadly used vaccine that does not require the developer’s assistance and approval.
Most countries in Africa have made significant gains in vaccinating two vulnerable groups against Covid-19, but new infections are creeping upward as summer travel begins and some countries ease public health measures, the World Health Organization said on Thursday. About half of public health workers and people over 60 have been fully vaccinated in 31…
Pregnant people who are hospitalized with COVID-19 in Sub-Saharan Africa are dying at a rate far greater than pregnant people without COVID-19 and non-pregnant people with COVID-19, according to a new multicenter study encompassing six African countries. The research was published today in Clinical Infectious Diseases and led by a University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health infectious diseases epidemiologist.
The effects of COVID-19 on pregnancy have been studied in detail in high-income countries, such as the U.S., but studies of similar size and scope are lacking in low- and middle-income countries and non-Western settings. The new findings confirm that pregnant people are at higher risk of complications and death from COVID-19 and, therefore, should be prioritized with other high-risk people for COVID-19 vaccination in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Our findings indicate that hospitalized pregnant women with COVID-19 in Sub-Saharan Africa have two to five times greater risk of needing intensive care and dying than uninfected, hospitalized pregnant women. We must urgently prioritize pregnant women among at-risk populations in COVID-19 vaccine programs in Africa.”
Jean B. Nachega, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., lead author, associate professor of infectious diseases and microbiology and epidemiology at Pitt Public Health
The large study looked at outcomes of over 1,300 female patients of child-bearing age who were hospitalized between March 2020 and March 2021 in one of six countries: the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Uganda. Specifically, this study looked at three categories: pregnant women with COVID-19, non-pregnant women with COVID-19 and pregnant women without COVID-19.
Researchers found that the rates of intensive care unit (ICU) admission and use of supplemental oxygen were at least two-fold higher and the death toll increased five-fold in the pregnant women with SARS-CoV‑2.
Related StoriesSub-Saharan Africa also has higher rates of tuberculosis (TB) and HIV than the U.S., and published studies on COVID-19 among people with these chronic infections have had conflicting results, so the team also investigated the impact of these infections on their study population. Among the participants, both pregnant and non-pregnant women with HIV or a prior history of TB had a two-fold increased risk of ICU admission.
“The burden of TB and HIV infections in Africa adds to the risk of severe COVID-19 during pregnancy,” said coauthor John W. Mellors, M.D., chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases in Pitt’s School of Medicine. “This further underscores the importance of COVID-19 vaccination as part of prenatal care.”
Nachega, who splits his time between Pitt Public Health and a faculty position at Stellenbosch University in South Africa, noted recent progress on increasing the COVID-19 vaccine supply in Africa but emphasized that COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy and misinformation about public health guidance is a global issue, and Africa is no exception. In an editorial published alongside the study, Nachega and fellow researchers emphasized that targeting COVID-19 vaccinations to this population is key in improving mother and infant outcomes.
“COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy and low vaccine uptake in pregnancy include misinformation and disinformation promoted on social media and other platforms, which mislead the public about side effects, such as infertility and potential fetal harm,” Nachega said. “Along with devoting resources to promoting vaccination, we must also work to stop the spread of misinformation.”
University of PittsburghJournal reference:Clinical Infectious Diseases. DOI: doi.org/10.1093/cid/ciac294
COVID-19 deaths in Africa are forecast to decrease by 94 per cent this year compared to last year the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday.
Nairobi — The global pandemic has pushed more than 55 million Africans into extreme poverty and reversed two decades of hard work in poverty reduction on the continent. The Economic Report on Africa for 2021 blamed the growing poverty on job losses, reduced income and the inability of households to manage the risks In a 150-page…
JOHANNESBURG — The first factory in Africa licensed to produce Covid-19 vaccines for the African market has not received a single order and may shut down that production line within weeks if the situation doesn’t change, according to executives of the company, Aspen Pharmacare. The factory, in the coastal South African city of Gqeberha, formerly…
The Africa director at the World Health Organization on Thursday
The COVID-19 vaccination rate in Africa needs to increase six-fold for the continent to meet the 70 per cent target set for the middle of this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday.
The agency says the rise is a warning sign that hospitals in affected countries are reaching a ‘breaking point’.