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S/African leader hails US support Covid-19 vaccine IP rights waiver

South Africa welcomes the decision by the United States government to back calls for the lifting of intellectual property (IP)…

South Africa welcomes the decision by the United States government to back calls for the lifting of intellectual property (IP) rights restrictions on the production of Covid-19 vaccines, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Thursday.US President Joe Biden and his deputy Kamala Harris announced their support on Wednesday for a temporary and targeted waiver of IP rights protections that apply to Covid-19 vaccines.

Responding to the announcement, Ramaphosa said he welcomed the US position as an important reinforcement of a campaign led by South Africa and India on behalf of emerging economies that are facing vaccine shortages and production challenges in the fight against Covid-19.

He said the anticipated temporary waiver provided a global response to Covid-19 as the proposal established a global solution to enhance manufacturing and boost supply capacity, and enables coordination and access to information currently under patent protection.

“For countries that do not currently 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,” Ramaphosa said.

He added: “Where supply capacity currently exists, it can be repurposed to Covid-vaccine production and, in this way, improve the supply available to all nations.”

In announcing their support for the waiver, the two US leaders said the Covid-19 pandemic was a global health crisis that called for extraordinary measures.

The move, however, did not negate the need to maintain IP protections for the Covid-19 drug makers, the US leaders pointed out.

In this regard, Biden and Harris said the US government would at the forthcoming negotiations of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) support the waiver of those protections for Covid-19 vaccines. 

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