On Monday President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that South Africa will host the first World Health Organization-backed COVID-19 mRNA vaccine Technology Transfer Hub – an initiative designed to get the production of mRNA vaccines off the ground in Africa. Parties involved in the hub expect to hear as early as next week whether pharmaceutical companies with mRNA COVID-vaccines for COVID-19 on the market – Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech – will share their know-how with the hub. Chris Bateman reports for Spotlight.
Messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines, such as the COVID-19 vaccines made by Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech, have been hailed for their manufacturing advantages over conventional vaccines – so much so that African leaders such as President Cyril Ramaphosa has called for mRNA production capacity to be developed in Africa. Catherine Tomlinson examines why mRNA vaccines are easier to make than some other types of vaccines and asks what it will take to build such production capacity.
25 heads of state, including South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa, have called for the creation of an international pandemic treaty to strengthen global capacity to predict and respond to pandemic threats. But what should we make of this development, given that existing treaties have often been ignored during the COVID-19 crisis and recent efforts toward a research and development treaty for health products have floundered, asks Catherine Tomlinson.
The World Trade Organization TRIPS council is expected to vote on South Africa and India’s proposed patent waiver on 10 or 11 March which could, if granted, help countries to scale up production of COVID-19 vaccines. But, while the waiver is important, argues Julia Chaskalson, it is also urgent that South Africa should amend its outdated domestic patent laws.