PPRETORIA, South Africa, 06 May 2021 — As, SANAC Civil Society Forum (SANAC CSF) we welcome the announcement made by the United States Biden-Harris administration to support the TRIPS waiver for COVID-19 vaccines. This is a critical step but more needs to be done to ensure that all people, especially in developing countries are afforded their equitable share at accessing vaccines. The continuation of COVID-19 pandemic and lack of vaccine has been a big challenge that has had a negative impact largely due to intellectual property (IP) barriers in the past and are anticipated to have on the scale up of manufacturing and supply of lifesaving medical tools across the world.
A coordinated effort by all is needed to promote multilateral efforts to scale up the production of COVID-19 health products through the WHO’s COVID-19 Technology Access Pool to lead the global fight, so that all people can get access and treatment as quickly as possible.
SANAC CSF commends the US Administration in supporting the emergency COVID-19 Intellectual Property waiver under consideration at the World Trade Organisation (WTO). This has shown us that the US indeed, as promised under Biden’s election, to put people first before pharmaceutical company profits.
“This announcement is timely as many countries including South Africa called on solidarity at the WTO by Developed states to waive the IP rights, the US Administration knows there is a serious need for transformation within the health system and tools that support the work. There is a need to see this kind of solidarity even at the national level for institutional and implementation arrangements like PEPFAR,” said SANAC Co-Chairperson and Chair of CSF.
Letsike further welcomed the appointment of Samantha Power to lead the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
“We congratulate this important appointment with the hope of the same solidarity that she displayed in her previous role as US Ambassador to the UN for countries, activists and issues of marginalised communities including the LGBTI community,” added Letsike.
The US had been resisting the proposal made by India and South Africa in October at the World Trade Organization (WTO) to waive these IP rights. Seen that the Biden-Harris Administration has so much influence, this is a great achievement, particularly for African countries.
And, as South Africa currently witnesses a severe third wave and steep rise in infections, the US announcement by the Biden-Harris administration shows that they are serious about ending this global pandemic. The TRIPS waiver request will help to unlock capacity to fight the virus and ideally reach herd immunity.
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ABOUT SANAC CSF
The South African National AIDS Council was established as a Multi-Sectoral structure by the Cabinet of the South African Government to advise Government on Policy Options for tackling the HIV and related epidemics. The role of the Civil Society Forum is to bring together diverse sectors of society representing various interests in order to strengthen the sector participation and share resources/information from provincial, district, local and up to ward level. The ultimate goal of the Civil Society Forum is to represent the views of all Civil Society Sectors in the Policy deliberations within the Aids Councils as well as to advocate for the policy proposals of civil society for consideration by government and the private sector.