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Six African countries to receive mRNA vaccine technology

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By Samuel Petrequin

Brussels, Feb 18 (AP) The first African countries selected to receive the technology needed to produce mRNA vaccines against COVID-19 are Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and the Tunisia, announced a summit meeting of the countries of the European Union and the African Union. Friday.

The six countries will receive technology from the World Health Organization‘s Global mRNA Vaccine Center based in South Africa, with the aim of helping them start producing vaccines as soon as possible.

In a bid to help poor countries produce their own vaccine, the World Health Organization last year partnered with local companies and scientists to replicate the mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine.

Africa currently produces only 1% of coronavirus vaccines. According to WHO figures, only 11% of the African population is fully immunized, compared to a global average of around 50%.

WHO Secretary-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the Brussels summit that although more than 10 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered worldwide, billions of people are still unvaccinated.

“The tragedy, of course, is that billions of people have yet to benefit from these vital tools,” he said, calling for an urgent increase in local vaccine production in poor countries.

In addition to transferring vaccine technology, the EU has exported millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccine to Africa. The 27-nation bloc said it had supplied Africa with nearly 145 million doses, with a target of reaching at least 450 million doses by the summer.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said Friday’s announcement “signifies mutual respect, mutual recognition” of what African nations can contribute as well as investment in the continent.

But Ramaphosa repeated his call for the lifting of patent protections on coronavirus vaccines which he said would allow more manufacturers to produce the vaccines. The EU remains opposed to this decision, favoring instead individual agreements with companies for the transfer of technology and know-how.

The decision rests with the 164 members of the World Trade Organization. If only one country votes against waiving patent protection, the proposal will fail.

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said patent talks should continue as expanding vaccinations globally is essential.

“Otherwise we will see more variants and the next variant could be even (more) dangerous than (the ones) we have seen,” Marin said. (AP) MRJ

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