Simnikiwe Hlatshaneni
Premium Journalist
2 minute read
6 May 2021
11:45 am

Ramaphosa welcomes US support for Covid-19 vaccine waiver

Simnikiwe Hlatshaneni

The US government says the Covid-19 pandemic is a global health crisis which calls for extraordinary measures.

President Cyril Ramaphosa believes vaccine patent waivers will be for the benefit of humanity. Picture: GCIS

President Cyril Ramaphosa has welcomed the US government’s support for SA and India’s call for a waiver on Covid-19 vaccine patents to make them cheaper and more accessible.

US Trade Representative Katherine Tai announced the country’s position on the multinational call for the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to waive intellectual property rights on Covid-19 related medicines. This is in order to boost the global race to herd immunity and to eradicate the pandemic even in poorer countries.

“This is a global health crisis and the extraordinary circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures. The administration believes strongly in intellectual property protections, but in service of ending this pandemic supports the waiver of those protections for Covid-19 vaccines,” Tai said in a statement.

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The US government says the Covid-19 pandemic is a global health crisis which calls for extraordinary measures. It says while it believes strongly in intellectual property protection, it would at forthcoming negotiations of the WTO support the waiver of those protections for Covid-19 vaccines.

Ramaphosa’s acting spokesperson, Tyrone Seale, says the US’s position on the issue is an important reinforcement of the campaign. Led by South Africa and India on behalf of emerging economies, supporters believe the anticipated temporary waiver provides a global response to Covid-19.

The proposal seeks to establish a global solution to enhance manufacturing and boost supply capacity, enable coordination and access to information currently under patent protection.

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Seale says the forthcoming WTO negotiations provide the global community and especially leading economies, with both an opportunity and the challenge to act in the best interest of all humanity.

“This can be achieved by focusing on the moral, legal and economic benefits of providing urgent, affordable and equitable protection to all people around the world in the face of a grave and indiscriminate threat to life and economic sustainability.”

In light of the growing global consensus, Ramaphosa’s office has called on pharmaceutical companies to facilitate sharing of know-how and technology to enable a rapid increase in supply capacity in order to save lives.

“For countries that do not have manufacturing capacity on certain medical technologies, the waiver could open up more supply options and avoid countries being reliant on only one or two suppliers. Where supply capacity exists, it can be repurposed for Covid-19 vaccine production and in this way improve the supply available to all nations.”