Ramaphosa to push for vaccine patent waiver at G7 summit in the UK

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President Cyril Ramphosa.
President Cyril Ramphosa.

President Cyril Ramaphosa is joining other world leaders at the G7 Summit in Cornwall, southwestern England this week.

At the meeting of most of the world's most powerful countries, he is expected to push for a temporary patent waiver on Covid-19 vaccines.

South Africa and India have been driving a campaign to achieve this.

Currently only pharmaceutical companies that own the patents for the vaccines are allowed to manufacture the jabs. But lifting the patent rights means that they will lose this exclusive right. Their formulas can then be used by other companies who have the required technology to manufacture generic versions of these vaccines, without fear that they will be sued.

Potentially, this means that vaccines can be manufactured at much greater scale in South Africa, and in other countries.

In a surprise move, the US last month expressed support for the waiver, a sharp reversal of its previous position. France and Russia also support the move, while Germany and the UK oppose the waiver.

In a statement, the Presidency said the summit would enable South Africa to lobby for a fast international response to ensuring that access to Covid-19 vaccines is equitable and affordable.

This year’s G7 summit is the first since 2018, following the outbreak of Covid-19. The G7 countries are Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK and US - with South Africa and India, as well as Australia and South Korea as guests. 

Ramaphosa left South Africa on Friday, and will be accompanied by International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor.

In a statement, the Presidency said that Ramaphosa was invited "in recognition of South Africa’s leadership role on the continent and globally in the fight against the pandemic, including championing vaccine equity within and between nations". 

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