EU ignores Africa’s patent waiver plea at a meeting in Rwanda
European Union (EU) countries have once again blocked mention of waiving vaccine patents to fight the pandemic at a meeting in an African country.
There was a "need to conclude discussions on how the World Trade Organisation (WTO) can support the ramping up of manufacturing, the equitable distribution of Covid-19 related health products, and the transfer of technologies", 68 EU and African foreign ministers said in a joint communiqué on Wednesday (27 October) after talks in Kigali.
"We recognized, everybody does, that there is an unbearable vaccination gap that has to be closed ... between Africa and Europe," EU foreign-affairs chief Josep Borrell also told press.
And fixing the problem was "not only a moral duty", Borrell added, given scientific warnings that new Covid variants could develop in Africa, where just 5 percent of people have been inoculated, then bounce back to Europe. It had called for EU backing for "a targeted and time-limited Trips Waiver" on vaccines in earlier drafts of the communiqué, seen by Observer.
This is while the World Health Organization has warned that only five African countries will meet the target of fully vaccinating 40% of their populations against COVID-19 by year-end unless the pace of inoculations accelerates across the continent.
WHO Africa said in a statement that Kenya, Rwanda and South Africa have already experienced delays in receiving syringes. “Early next year COVID-19 vaccines will start pouring into Africa, but a scarcity of syringes could paralyse progress. Drastic measures must be taken to boost syringe production, fast,” said Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Africa’s director.
So far, the continent has fully vaccinated 77 million people, just 6% of its population. As of Thursday, Africa had close 8.5 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 217,000 deaths, WHO Africa said.