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US supports SA and India’s call to waive Covid-19 vaccine patents

Picture: Timothy Bernard/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Picture: Timothy Bernard/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Published May 6, 2021


Cape Town - The US has been applauded for it’s decision to support South Africa and India’s proposal to waive intellectual property (IP) rights protections for Covid-19 vaccines.

US Trade Representative Katherine Tai, said: “This is a global health crisis, and the extraordinary circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures. The administration believes strongly in intellectual property protections, but in service of ending this pandemic, supports the waiver of those protections for Covid-19 vaccines.”

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Tai cautioned that the negotiations would take time but added that the Biden-Harris administration would take part in text-based negotiations at the World Trade Organization needed to make that happen.

South Africa and India put forward the proposal in October last year, to waive certain provisions of the WTO's Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (Trips) to would allow countries to suspend the protection of intellectual property for Covid-19 products for the duration of the pandemic.

With India having temporarily suspended exports of the AstraZeneca from the Serum Institute; the world’s biggest jabs manufacturer in order to meet domestic demands amid a surge in infections.

The waiver is essential to help meet an urgent global demand for vaccines, treatments and other products to fight the pandemic, by taking away any potential IP barriers and ensure all global economies, including the US' economy, can recover from the pandemic and thrive.

However, those opposing this have labelled it a radical proposal that would destroy the IP system and with that their appetite to innovate.

In a tweet, the director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, John Nkengasong said they welcomed the waiver and called the decision “leadership in action”.

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“History will remember this decision as a great act of humanity,” he said.

The waiver proposal by SA and India is backed by 58 sponsoring governments and about 100 countries are supporting it. The US supports this waiver, for Covid-19 vaccines in the interest of ending the pandemic.

World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus praised the US’s decision.

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“It is a monumental moment in the fight against Covid-19 that reflects the ’moral leadership’ of the White House in the fight to end the pandemic,” he said.

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