WHO works to spread COVID vaccine technology to more nations


The global disparity in access to COVID-19 vaccines is enormous. Africa currently produces just 1% of the world’s COVID-19 vaccines and only about 11% of its population is immunized. In contrast, a European nation like Portugal has had 84% of its population fully vaccinated, and over 59% of its people have also had a booster shot.

Last week, WHO said six African countries — Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia — would receive the knowledge and technological know-how to make mRNA COVID-19 vaccines. Tedros said Wednesday that five more countries would now receive support from the South Africa hub: Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan, Serbia and Vietnam.

Earlier this year, the Cape Town company attempting to replicate Moderna Inc.’s COVID-19 shot said it had successfully made a candidate vaccine that will soon start laboratory testing.

Scientists attempting to make Moderna’s vaccine say there is more information about that shot in the public domain and it’s believed to be slightly easier to manufacture than the one made by Pfizer-BioNTech.

Zain Rizvi, research director at the advocacy group Public Citizen, welcomed the news, saying WHO’s efforts will address the huge global demand for mRNA vaccines, which have proven to be arguably the most effective at curbing COVID-19.

“(WHO) provides a stark contrast to the failures of Moderna and Pfizer’s of the world who have largely hoarded the technology,” Rizvi said. “WHO is charting an alternative course that is more open and transparent. But it still needs help.”

Rizvi called for the Biden administration in particular to pressure international pharmaceutical companies to share their COVID-19 vaccine recipes and know-how.


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