The Director-General, World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, says that African and Latin American countries need to actively participate in vaccine production to bridge the COVID-19 vaccine supply gap between rich and poor countries.
Speaking on the eve of a global health summit in Rome, Okonjo-Iweala told the European parliament that intellectual property waiver alone will not sufficient to narrow the huge gap in supply.
According to her, more effort is needed to ensure that there is equitable production and distribution of the vaccines.
Okonjo-Iweala told the world leaders that normal market forces for exports and imports were not applicable to COVID-19 vaccines as it was a life-or-death issue.
“It’s not normal that Africa, with 1.3 billion people, has 0.17 percent of the manufacturing capacity of the world,” she said. “So this has to change.”
The WTO DG added, “I am convinced that we can agree on a text that gives developing countries that kind of access and flexibility, whilst protecting research and innovation.
“To have solved the unacceptable problem of inequity of access to vaccines, we have to be holistic. It’s not one or the other.”
She added, “One of the main challenges is diversifying vaccine production, which is now 80 per cent concentrated in 10 European, North American and South Asian nations.”