Ramaphosa reiterates calls for landmark COVID-19 vaccine patent waiver

A batch of COVID-19 vaccines arrive at the official launch of the mass vaccine roll-out programme at Prince Mshiyeni Memorial Hospital on February 18, 2021 in Durban South Africa. (Photo by Darren Stewart / Gallo Images via Getty Images)
A batch of COVID-19 vaccines arrive at the official launch of the mass vaccine roll-out programme at Prince Mshiyeni Memorial Hospital on February 18, 2021 in Durban South Africa. (Photo by Darren Stewart / Gallo Images via Getty Images)

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has reiterated calls for a landmark waiver on intellectual property (IP) to enable countries to produce COVID-19 vaccines and drugs on a larger scale, at lower prices.

Ramaphosa was speaking at his country’s Workers Day ceremony, during which he called for more solidarity in the fight against the pandemic.

“South Africa and India have made a strong call, which is supported by more than a hundred countries, for a temporary TRIPS waiver of vaccine patents at the World Trade Organization (WTO). This will allow developing nations more speedy and equitable access to the vaccine,” he said.

South Africa is the hardest hit African country by the COVID-19 pandemic, having reported 1,581,210 infections with 54,350 deaths.

The figures represent 34.67 percent of the continent’s caseload and 44.62 percent of its death toll.

The country rolled out its mass vaccination program earlier in the year, but the process has been hit by delays twice. First when authorities stopped the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, and secondly when the Johnson & Johnson vaccines were also halted temporarily.

South Africa and India proposed the temporary waiver of IP in October 2020.

The waiver would apply to certain IP on COVID-19 medical tools and technologies until herd immunity is reached.

In his speech on Saturday, the South African president called out developed countries that were hoarding vaccines, making it difficult for other countries to obtain the vital doses.

“None of us are safe until all of us are safe,” said Ramaphosa.

“The best way in which to fight COVID-19 is to ensure that as many people as possible are vaccinated as fast as possible. This disease cares nothing for borders, economic, military or other prowess.”