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Government, producers and labour welcome WTO vaccine decision

20th June 2022

By: Tasneem Bulbulia

Senior Contributing Editor Online

     

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The South African government, local vaccine manufacturers and organised labour have welcomed the agreement secured at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) last week to support the production of Covid-19 vaccines in developing countries.

The agreement allows governments to authorise local manufacturers to produce vaccines or their ingredients, substances or elements and use processes which are covered by patents, without the permission of the patent holders during a pandemic.

South Africa and India first proposed the measures to the WTO, with the support of other developing countries, at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel and Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister Thoko Didiza noted that the agreement was a step forward in government’s efforts to stimulate African industrialisation and said it had the potential to unlock production beyond fill and finish.

“The waiver is one element of a wider set of actions to build both innovation and production capability in South Africa and elsewhere on the continent. South Africa has four vaccine initiatives under way. Our focus now is to ensure we address demand by persuading global procurers for vaccines to source from African producers.

“This waiver and the other commitments secured at the WTO is also about pandemic preparedness, to enable developing countries to have the legal tools in place to address variants to Covid-19 in future and indeed, to prepare for future pandemics,” Patel said.

Didiza said the agreement was a step forward for African pharmaceutical producers.

Organised labour and business representatives at the National Economic Development and Labour Council met virtually with the South African government during the twelfth WTO Ministerial Conference and pledged their full support to the efforts by South Africa to secure an agreement.

Local vaccine manufacturers Biovac, Afrigen and Aspen PharmaCare welcomed the terms and supported the approach to reach agreement at the WTO.

The country’s largest trade union federation the Congress of South African Trade Unions has also welcomed the agreement.

“The WTO has reached a significant milestone by waiving intellectual property rights applicable in the manufacturing of vaccines. South Africa’s leading role in this breakthrough agreement is applauded. This will unlock manufacturing capacity on the continent,” Afrigen MD Professor Petro Terblanche added.

The company has designed and developed the first South  African mRNA vaccine currently being tested.

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online

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