AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) today praised the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) for committing to share innovative technologies with a South Africa-based biotech company, Afrigen, which should speed up the development and rollout of modern, highly-effective vaccines in low- and middle-income countries, including on the African continent.
“We have entered a new age of pandemics, which demands a new way of fighting infectious diseases. As we have seen so clearly with COVID-19, the ‘everyone for themselves’ approach simply does not work. That’s why the sharing of data, know-how, and technologies is essential for protecting global public health,” said AHF President Michael Weinstein. “The NIH is doing the right thing by opening up its patents to partners in developing countries – for far too long, the patent system has been used by pharma to perpetuate health inequality around the world. This may be a first small step, but it’s in the right direction.”
To date, only a quarter of the population in Africa has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. The deficit of vaccines at the beginning of the pandemic has been attributed to wealthy countries buying up most of the supply, which has prompted calls for Africa to build up domestic production capacity and know-how. mRNA vaccines hold promise for preventing diseases beyond COVID-19, such as HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis, among others.