Zambia backs WTO call for waiving patent rights for vaccines, medicines

A South African health worker is inoculated with a dose of Covid-19 vaccine at the Khayelitsha Hospital in Cape Town on February 17, 2021. /Gianluigi Guercia/VCG

The Zambian government on Wednesday said that it was in support of views by the World Trade Organization (WTO) that patent rights for vaccines and medicines should be waived.

Minister of Health Jonas Chanda said this was important as it will allow countries to start manufacturing vaccines and medicines to make them affordable and readily available.

FILE PHOTO: A South African health worker is inoculated with a dose of Covid-19 vaccine at the Khayelitsha Hospital in Cape Town. /Gianluigi Guercia/VCG

In remarks made during the ongoing virtual Eighth Edition of the Merck Foundation Africa-Asia Luminary being chaired by Zambia, Chanda said this should also be done so that countries bearing the burden of various infectious diseases start manufacturing the medicines locally.

“We, therefore, appeal that those countries holding the patent rights should do something very humanitarian by making sure that African countries can manufacture these vaccines for malaria, COVID-19, essential antibiotics and also chemotherapy drugs,” he said.

According to the Zambian minister, there was a need for countries with companies that hold patent rights to allow African countries to manufacture vaccines and medicines in order to ease the disease burden that the continent faces.

“Vaccines are not manufactured in Africa although the disease burden is in Africa whether you talk about COVID-19, infectious diseases, we have malaria which has been with us for many years,” he added.

The video conference, which runs from April 27 to 29, is being attended by African First Ladies, Ministers of Health and other experts from about 70 countries.