TRIPS WAIVER: Ramaphosa warns G7 leaders of new aim for patent waiver on Covid therapeutics and diagnostics
After winning what he called a breakthrough on COVID vaccines, President Cyril Ramaphosa has warned the leaders of the G7 rich countries to stick to their case to support another “TRIPS waiver” – a move to support international pharmaceutical companies. To suspend intellectual property rights. COVID therapeutics and diagnostics so that developing countries can manufacture them without the authorization of the patent holders.
Ramaphosa said that South Africa, India and other countries were “celebrating the success of obtaining the TRIPS exemption” on 17 June 2022, when the World Trade Organization (WTO) suspended the patent rights of pharma companies for their COVID vaccines. agreed upon. The exemption has received mixed reviews, with some health rights activists dismissing it as a “very bad deal”, while others in the South African pharma industry welcomed it as “balanced”, but also warned Before that many bridges could be crossed. be applied practically in Africa.
Ramaphosa reminded G7 leaders at their just-concluded summit in Schloss Elmau, Germany, that some of them had previously opposed the waiver of these COVID vaccine patent rights – which is part of the WTO’s on trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights. Agreement (TRIPS). ,
However, “eventually we asked them to accept that there should be an exemption”, Ramaphosa told the Government Information Service, GCIS. But he said he had warned G7 leaders at the summit that the WTO concession on vaccines should be the foundation for further concessions on COVID-19 therapeutics and diagnostics, which the WTO would decide on in six months.
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He also told the G7 that South Africa and other developing countries want G7 countries and their various federations to buy vaccines made in Africa for their own citizens as well as other African countries, which they can donate. Ramaphosa said that the leaders of the G-7 have agreed to do so. He was apparently referring to the failure of South African company Aspen Pharmacare to secure any orders for the J&J COVID vaccine, which was recently started manufacturing under license in Gakberha.
Stavros Nikolaou, Aspen’s Group Senior Executive for Strategic Business daily vagabond The WTO’s decision to waive TRIPS for COVID vaccines was a step in the right direction rather than a final product. Unless an international decision is made to purchase vaccines manufactured in Africa, the exemption would make no sense.
The TRIPS exemption was a step towards the larger goal of giving the continent the ability to industrialize pharmaceuticals to ensure health sovereignty and health security. Vaccines were the most basic requirement for those ambitions. “Nothing protects more than vaccines,” Nicolaus said.
He said that the TRIPS exemption strikes a fine balance between rewarding innovation and research on the one hand and providing greater access to treatment on the other. But he said access to intellectual property was not enough. Any manufacturer would need to be able to actually make vaccines, with innate abilities, skills, abilities, abilities and – most importantly – a willing partner to share information. “That’s really the crux,” he said.
“And the big picture is that even before you reach the IP [intellectual property] Exemption, unless there is a re-orientation of the international procurement mechanism and there is a genuine commitment to buy from Africa, in which African governments themselves buy from Africa, unless the first step is to either facilitate or Technique is useless. Transfer, because it’s all going to be nil.
“The first step is to keep still, to avoid any white elephants. It’s no use saying, ‘We’re going to put it on’ [facility] up and [then never using] This. In six to 12 months everyone will be out of the market.
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Nicolau said that Aspen will give organizations like Kovax, which is buying free or low-cost vaccines for low- and middle-income countries, a few more weeks and if they still don’t place any vaccine orders, it will ramp up its production line. will change back. Anesthetics. This would be a major blow to Africa’s ambition to become independent in Covid vaccine production as Aspen is the only Covid vaccine manufacturer on the continent.
However, Fatima Hassan, director of the Health Justice Initiative (HJI), said Ramaphosa had “simply sham” of the World Trade Organization agreement on COVID vaccines as a success, when one assumed that South Africa had initially taken all Had called for complete relaxation of covid. medical technologies.
“What they found was an IP exemption only on vaccines and not all of its ingredients, but only removing some export restrictions” (on quantities that could be exported under a mandatory license).
Hassan said that, after months of vigorous lobbying by Ramaphosa internationally for this full TRIPS waiver, South Africa was ultimately threatened by the US and the European Union for a “very poor deal” that failed to provide treatment, diagnosis and timely delivery. Access was jeopardized. other technologies.
“If Ramaphosa really wanted to properly address this issue, he could have issued the compulsory license right now and took executive action on treatment and diagnosis.
Ramaphosa doesn’t have to wait for the WTO. He won’t have to wait six months. He can now take executive action. ,
Hassan said Ramaphosa expected the WTO to allow a waiver on COVID therapy and diagnosis in six months because the WTO was extremely slow to reach such decisions.
new international treaty
Ramaphosa’s spokesman, Vincent Magwenya, said the president had also expressed concerns with the G7 leaders “about the lack of equity and transparency in the availability of vaccines to African countries, which has been increasingly exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.” Is”. He urged the international community to work together towards a new international treaty for pandemic preparedness and response.
Ramaphosa said he had asked G7 leaders to support South Africa’s proposal to make Africa self-sufficient in the production of fertilisers. It would help address food security on the continent, which was hit by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The war led to an acute shortage of food, especially grain and fertilizers produced by both countries, and a rise in prices.
“We are going to work on a proposal because Africa will have to start producing its own fertilizers. We have to be financially independent when it comes to food security,” said Ramaphosa, the silver lining of the war. It was “that it may awaken us to start producing our own fertilizers to secure our food security”. Some leaders of the G-7 supported this proposal.
Ramaphosa said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had told G7 leaders about his efforts to open the channel so that exports of grain and fertilizers from Russia and Ukraine could resume. “We thought the report was very positive,” he said.
He and other guests at the summit, including Senegalese President Mackie Saal, who was present there as president of the African Union, also discussed climate change with G7 leaders.
This includes the Just Energy Transition Partnership that France, Germany, the UK, the US and the European Union have signed with South Africa. Partner countries have pledged to provide $8.5 billion in financing for the initiative to help South Africa move from its heavy reliance on coal to renewable energy, while preserving jobs and livelihoods. Ramaphosa noted that Germany had promised yet another €300 million for the programme.
He said talks were on to establish what the program would mean for South Africa, and that it had made clear to its partners that the energy transition should not adversely affect the jobs of miners or mining communities.
The transition needs to be managed very well within a time frame that will put South Africa on a renewable energy trajectory, particularly in the adoption of new technologies such as hydrogen fuel cells, while ensuring that it is the best for the South African people. was done in full consultation with so that no one was left behind.
The summit also had “a wonderful discussion on the issue of gender equality, women’s empowerment”, focusing on the need to mainstream gender equality to “start looking at gender budgeting and incorporate it into our budgeting processes”. This means a lot to us as South Africa as we are grappling with the issue of how to put a gender budget into our entire budget structure. DM