AU urges WTO to waive Covid-19 vaccine making rights

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is also the African Union chairperson, on Thursday appealed to the UN World Trade…

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is also the African Union chairperson, on Thursday appealed to the UN World Trade Organisation (WTO) to waive coronavirus vaccines manufacturing rights to enable Africa and other less-endowed world regions to make the drugs at lower costs.Ramaphosa’s appeal follows a webinar on the Africa Covid-19 Vaccine Financing and Development Strategy he held with health and finance ministers of AU member states as well as health experts, private sector leaders and civil society representatives.

During his address, Ramaphosa urged the WTO to waive vaccine making rights under the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) for a defined period to enable what he called the Global South to make Covid-19 drugs and make them available for treatment to poor populations at affordable prices.

South Africa joined India in making this proposed TRIPS waiver in response to the pandemic that has killed over two million people worldwide.

“This (waiver) would enable countries in Africa and elsewhere to access active pharmaceutical ingredients and benefit from technology transfer, including the know-how to manufacture vaccines in Africa at a cheaper cost,” Ramaphosa said.

He added: “The task before us is to step up global solidarity to ensure equitable access to the vaccines. All countries must get vaccines and must get them speedily.”

He said it was vital to the global containment of Covid-19 that vaccination takes place in all countries and among all populations.

“No part of the world will be safe from the coronavirus until all parts of the world are safe.”

He noted the challenges of accessing vaccines for the Global South, particularly for Africa, where some of the vaccines being peddled in the Global North were tested before being manufactured for distribution.

“The developed North, which has substantial financial resources, has purchased the largest stocks, while we in Africa are struggling to get our fair share. The painful irony is that some of the clinical trials for these vaccines were carried out in Africa.

“In other cases, vaccines are packaged right here on the continent, yet we struggle to access them for our populations,” Ramaphosa said.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize announced Wednesday night that South Africa will receive its first batch of one million Covid-19 vaccines on February 1 from India.

“The vaccine that will arrive on Monday is the Astra Zeneca vaccine product called “CoviShield,” Mkhize said.