Two years of Covid-19 in Tanzania, stakeholders want copyright exemption on vaccine production

Dar es Salaam. The South African Human Rights NGO Network (SAHRiNGON-Tanzania chapter) has reiterated the need for the World Trade Organization (WTO) to waive copyright laws regarding Covid-19 vaccine production to allow Tanzania and other countries planning to establish vaccine factories to do so.

They plead with wealthier countries to join the United States, Russia and China in recognizing that everyone benefits if vaccine manufacturing is distributed evenly around the world.

This comes when the World Health Organization (WHO) yesterday stated that two years since the first case of Covid-19 was reported in Tanzania the response to preventive measures has increased, with 33,773 people having been infected and 800 died.

However, the country has since rolled out vaccination to help control the pandemic, with the aim of vaccinating 60 percent of the population.

Tanzania is one of the countries in Africa that has recently announced its intention to establish a local factory that will produce vaccines in an attempt to reduce importation costs.

The government's impetus was due to the presence of sufficient experts who, however, will not only focus on developing the Covid-19 vaccine but also those [vaccines] for other diseases so that even when the pandemic ends, Tanzania will still have the capacity to produce such medicines locally.

Now, the global campaign under SAHRiNGON aims to ensure that countries that have already developed various vaccines, allow skills to be distributed to experts in other countries such as Tanzania for the development of adequate vaccine-industries.

“Donating doses is encouraged and appreciated, but our view is that building domestic manufacturing capacity is a far better and sustainable option to ending the pandemic. Covid-19 vaccine donations so far have been sporadic and unpredictable,” SAHRiNGON Tanzania national coordinator, Ms Martina Kabisama told The Citizen in an interview.

"With our own factory and vaccines we believe many Tanzanians will be vaccinated and we will have taken steps to protect the health of our people now and in future,” she said

Ms Kabisama said that since October 2020, South Africa and India have led a coalition of more than 100 nations at the WTO calling for a waiver of intellectual property rules on Covid-19 vaccines, tests, and treatments, a call that almost every African country has joined.

Dr Willace Mayunga noted that there are manufacturers in countries across the Global South with the skills and facilities needed to produce Covid-19 vaccines and treatments at scale, including the World Health Organisation’s mRNA hub in South Africa.

“Engaging these manufacturers would revolutionise global vaccine manufacturing, unlocking the productive capacity needed to end this pandemic,” he said.

He said that it could also build the scientific and industry networks needed to protect Africa and the rest of the world from future disease outbreaks.

"The threat of dangerous new variants of Covid-19 has not gone away. Therefore, delays or opposition to the waiver only serves to prolong the pandemic, endangering lives…,” he noted.