The growing Covid-19 crisis facing Africa will require more extensive levels of international cooperation, coordination, compromise and care than there is now. There is a call here on more powerful nations like the G20 to take leadership, to be a ‘Good Samaritan’ and to promote international cooperation to find a solution to the current gaps in the distribution of the vaccines. Pope Francis, in Fratelli Tutti, teaches that fraternity and social friendship are the way to build a better, healthier, more just and peaceful world. The Pope warns against a “culture of walls” and calls humanity to say no to the current competition in acquiring of the vaccines and to globalised indifference and exclusion of others. In the Vatican’s 20 points for a fairer and healthier world, Pope Francis, has affirmed the need to make the new COVID-19 vaccines available and accessible to all saying: “if there is the possibility of treating a disease with a drug, this should be available to everyone, otherwise an injustice is created.”In 2015, all nations of the world agreed to reach the target of SDG 3.8 b7 2030, which calls for “access to safe, effective, quality, and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all”.
The call by India and South Africa for an urgent waiver of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) on intellectual property in relation to prevention, containment, or treatment of COVID-19 for the rapid scale-up of production and distribution of vaccine and therapeutics is along the lines of the SDG 3.8 target. But even though legal frameworks for the development of bioequivalent, cheaper versions of medicines, often referred to as “generic” medicine may be in place, we are aware that many countries in Africa lack the “adequate resources and infrastructure for the production of pharmaceutical products.” There is therefore the need for the easing of the provision under the 2001 Doha Declaration that would allow them to import generic forms of medicines from countries with developing capacity.
This should be supported by an accompanying transfer of technological knowledge for the production and manufacturing of generic vaccines. The scaling up of local production and manufacturing of vaccines will require urgent global financing. There is need to expand the liquidity and fiscal space for poor countries. As a first step, the G20 countries should approve their IMF SDR reallocation to poorer countries in order to empower the IMF to increase its emergency financing. To achieve meaningful results in 2021, COVAX should have guaranteed funds in 2021 of US$20–40 billion, which it would turn into firm agreements on expanded vaccine production. Moreover, members of the Developing Countries Vaccine Manufacturers Network should be engaged with the efforts of COVAX to produce low-cost vaccines at scale.