Washington, DC — On Mother's Day, we thank President Biden for offering a precious gift of hope for mothers worldwide who feel despair and helplessness in the face of COVID-19 resurgence. This landmark announcement signals to the world that the cries of huge populations beyond the reach of current distribution patterns have been heard and heeded, including those in Africa.
The decision of the Biden-Harris administration to support lifting of patents for COVID-19 vaccines opens the doors for mass production of vaccines worldwide. It is only the first step in a process toward readily available vaccines, but it is a highly significant pivot toward a new model of vaccine supply. Admittedly, shifting to new forms of production will take time. However, we have every confidence that Ambassador Tai, US Trade Representative, can now persuade other nations in the World Trade Organization, highlighting the urgency of the situation and encouraging them to act quickly to clear the many remaining hurdles in order to save millions of lives around the world.
Progress in developing and distributing vaccines through COVAX, with direct supply from the US, can deliver 20% of needed vaccines globally while the work is done to upgrade production and access to vaccine in Africa. It is likely that this increased, decentralized, equitable and just model can advance by more than two years the vaccination of millions of Africans. It will cut short the virus' chances to mutate and spread, protecting the entire global community from increased risk.
The US decision is the smart thing to do, and it is the right thing to do. It avoids the mistake made during the AIDS pandemic when millions of people died helplessly before ARVs were shared globally. Other wealthy nations, including EU nations, should follow the US lead and support the temporary TRIPS waiver. The WTO needs to fast track the process to facilitate the sharing and transfer of the technology to mass produce vaccines urgently.
We cannot treat our way out of COVID-19. It is prevention through vaccines that is the hope for the world. The international community can supplement vaccine efforts by issuing new special drawing rights at the IMF and cancelling external debts which will boost the economies of low and middle-income countries and enable them to manufacture vaccines expeditiously.
Biden-Harris affirm a US position that black and brown lives matter everywhere. Bravo!
The Advocacy Network for Africa (AdNA) is a non-partisan network of US-based organizations and scholars with programmatic focus on Africa /U. S-Africa policy.