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COVID-19: Access to Medicine & Implications for Africa

Human Development

Expeditious and affordable access to medicines and other healthcare items will be critical to reducing the toll of COVID-19 in Africa. But if nothing is done to compel corporations to make their patents and trade secrets available to any capable manufacturer so that antivirals, vaccines, and other critical supplies reach Africa in a timely manner, much of the continent could find itself hostage to high prices and the last to receive lifesaving drugs and vaccines.

For most people living in Africa, especially in urban areas, the arrival of COVID is not a question of "if" but rather "when". And when is rapidly drawing closer. Last week, the WHO and the UN Economic Commission for Africa warned that COVID could kill over 300,000 Africans and push tens of millions into poverty. Five African countries have more than 1,000 confirmed cases at time of writing, but with testing quite limited, confirmed cases are likely only the tip of the iceberg.

This paper provides background information on the drugs that are being tested to treat COVID-19 patients, as well as the vaccines that are under development to stop the pandemic. It includes details on who owns these drugs, and where available, information relevant to access to them. It is intended to help enable African civil society to form positions and cooperate on political action aimed at improving Africa's access to lifesaving medicines.

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