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WTO Landmark Agreement will boost COVID-19 vaccines production: SA

COVID-19 vaccine

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

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

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

The country welcomes the agreement as a solid and helpful basis to strengthen its joint efforts to develop a strong African vaccine manufacturing capacity. To scale up the production on the continent, further partnerships will be needed including access to know-how and technologies. It said the unanimous support for the waiver agreement by all WTO countries should lay the basis for such partnerships and give countries greater flexibility.

South African Ministers Ebrahim Patel and Thoko Didiza noted that the agreement was a step forward in the government’s efforts to stimulate African industrialisation and it has 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 underway. 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,” Minister Patel said.

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

Organised labour and business representatives at Nedlac met virtually with the SA Government during the 12th 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 an agreement at the WTO. SA’s largest trade union federation, COSATU today also welcomed the agreement.

“We would like to congratulate the South African government and all related stakeholders in reaching finality and agreement on this important topic. This will be an enabler to all institutions involved in covid 19 vaccine development and manufacture in developing countries to focus on the task at hand unhindered,” Morena Makhoana CEO of South African vaccine producer, Biovac said yesterday.

“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” Professor Petro Terblanche MD of Afrigen, an SA company that has designed and developed the first South African mRNA vaccine currently being tested said yesterday.

“We note the landmark agreement aimed at supporting the local production of COVID vaccines and in particular as it relates to the African continent. This is a positive step for the diversification of global pharmaceutical supply chains and for manufacturing on the African continent. It achieves a balance between providing access to COVID vaccines in developing countries within a framework that still rewards much-needed innovation by the original patent holders. That this has come through an agreement between multilateral parties augurs well for partnership in the pharmaceutical value chain. Aspen looks forward to continuing to work with its existing and future R&D multinational partners and global institutions to improve access to COVID vaccines within the agreements reached on intellectual property rights with the various multinational partners. We congratulate the South African government for its efforts,” Dr. Stavros Nicolaou, Group Senior Executive for Strategic Trade at Africa’s largest pharmaceutical manufacturer, Aspen Pharmacare said.

 

“COSATU and labour more broadly in South Africa welcome the agreement that has emerged at the WTO. Significant advances have been made in areas that are crucial for public policy in South Africa, including the overall architecture of the WTO and its ability to respond to development issues. The discussions on the TRIPS agreement were tough but we are happy that what emerged is a basis to go forward with local production,” the Congress of SA Trade Unions (COSATU) said yesterday.

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Byron Adonis Mutingwende