Johannesburg, South Africa: South Africa on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) welcomed a World Trade Organization (WTO) agreement to allow developing countries to start producing their own Covid vaccines after a close battle two years.
“We got a deal. It was a hard-fought deal,” said Trade Minister Ebrahim Patel, who along with India and NGOs had called for a waiver of intellectual property rights over treatment linked to Covid.
The WTO on Wednesday announced a relaxation of intellectual property restrictions on vaccines in a move to provide fairer access to shots but which many observers have criticized for being limited in time and scope.
South Africa and India had both expressed their demands for such a move, which they said was necessary to end “vaccine apartheid”.
According to the WTO, 60% of the world’s population has received two doses of the Covid vaccine, but there are glaring examples of inequality with only 17% having been bitten in Libya, with only 8% in Nigeria and less than 5 in Nigeria. Cameroon.
In a statement, the South African government welcomed a waiver aimed at giving local vaccine manufacturers the right to produce either vaccines or ingredients or components protected by patents, without the authorization of the patent holder, welcoming this as a significant step forward — even limited to five years.
Johannesburg added that “to increase production on the continent, new partnerships will be needed, including access to know-how and technologies”.
The agreement, however, excludes for the moment expensive tests and therapeutic treatments against Covid on which the WTO must decide within the next six months.
Marketing in Africa, however, will be a challenge.
Durban-based South African pharmaceutical giant Aspen, which struck a deal last November with US firm Johnson & Johnson to manufacture a “made in Africa for Africa” Covid vaccine Aspenovax, said last month that he might pull the plug due to lack of controls.
“Our focus now is to ensure we meet demand by persuading global vaccine buyers to source from African producers,” Patel said.
South Africa has three sites under the Aspen umbrella in Durban, Afrigen in Cape Town and Biovac, also in Cape Town, which manufactures the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
The Afrigen Biotech Consortium manufactures the Moderna formula-based messenger RNA jab, the first to be manufactured based on a widely used vaccine that does not require developer assistance and approval.