Ramaphosa: Biden has agreed to channel Pfizer vaccine donations to SA 'as soon as possible'

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G7 summit: President Cyril Ramaphosa President Joe Biden
G7 summit: President Cyril Ramaphosa President Joe Biden
  • President Cyril Ramaphosa has confirmed that US President Joe Biden has agreed to donate to SA some of the 500 million Pfizer vaccines the country is distributing globally.
  • Ramaphosa said SA and India had pushed the G7 for a waiver of Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), for vaccines, and this will be discussed at the WTO. 
  • Ramaphosa said Aspen Pharmcare, which is manufacturing the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in South Africa, will dispose more than two million vaccines it has already produced.

Covid-19 vaccines dominated discussions at the G7 summit, with President Cyril Ramaphosa saying on Sunday that US President Joe Biden agreed to provide South Africa with some of the 500 million Pfizer doses the country is distributing globally. 

This comes as Ramaphosa also confirmed that Aspen Pharmacare, the local manufacturer of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccines, is beginning work on new batches after two million doses will be disposed of due to suspicions that a core component of the vaccine was contaminated in a US factory. The president said Aspen’s CEO Stephen Saad had confirmed the work on the new batch of vaccines.

"We have stored a lot of of our vaccination programme’s hope on J&J because it’s one a one-jab vaccine. So we’ve been waiting, but in the meantime, we’ve been using the other vaccines, particularly Pfizer and in my discussions with President Biden, we did say to him that we would like the doses that he is going to donate, also to be channelled to Africa... [and] South Africa.

"He agreed that he is going to do precisely that, as soon as possible, so we should be able to get some doses from that end and we will be able to get doses also from Europe  - and we will then be able to have … a multi-vaccine doses type of situation." 

The White House said in a statement on Sunday that Biden and Ramaphosa met on the margins of the summit and "discussed the US-South Africa bilateral relationship and underscored the need to expand global Covid-19 vaccine supply and to cooperate on climate goals in Africa and on other bilateral and regional issues".

Ramaphosa also said during Sunday's briefing that negotiations on a temporary waiver of Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) for Covid-19 vaccines would take place at the World Trade Organisation.

"We are rather pleased with this, having amassed, more than 100 countries … in support of our proposals, we think there’s been progress, in the form of enabling the negotiations to happen on the taxes that should be looked at by all countries," Ramaphosa said.    

He added that the discussions had also resulted in support for countries that would be able to start manufacturing the vaccines, in the form of finance and licensing.

Another big part of the discussions was on the Covid-19 economic recovery assistance for countries through the International Monetary Fund's Special Drawing Rights.

"[This]... is a mechanism, which can be utilised to shore up finances of various countries and we know there is $650 billion that has been talked of and has been more or less agreed [on] and we also want access to that." Ramaphosa said G7 countries "and your more developed economies should donate the rights that they have and have them allocated to countries that do not have those rights". 

On climate change, which was also discussed at the summit, Ramaphosa said Africa contributed the lowest amount of greenhouse gas emissions, but it was affected the most by climate change, as evidenced by droughts, floods, other phenomena. 

He explained that while climate change mitigation was a global focus, it needed to be tailored to each country because it is "not one-size-fits-all" situation. He said there should be mechanisms that lead to financial support for countries that contribute the least emissions. 

"We believe that the G7 countries have listened to us and a number of areas are going to be addressed positively and on climate change as we move to COP26 in Glasgow, we believe that the calls that we have made will be heeded," he concluded.

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