President Ramaphosa champions vaccine equity at G7

Monday, June 14, 2021
President Cyril Ramaphosa and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the G7 Leaders' Summit.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has called on all G7 members to support the waiver of intellectual property rights on COVID-19 vaccines, and engage in negotiations that will result in a balanced outcome to rapidly expand production in Africa and across the world.

“To successfully contain a virus of this nature, to limit loss of life and to prevent the emergence of new variants requires that as many of the world’s population is vaccinated in the shortest time possible,” President Ramaphosa said.

He made the call at the G7 Leaders’ Summit session on ‘Building Back Stronger – Health’, held on Saturday.

Accompanied by International Relations and Cooperation Minister, Dr Naledi Pandor, the President arrived in Cornwall, United Kingdom, on Friday, to attend the G7 Leader's Summit at the invitation of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The summit brought together leaders to discuss efforts to end the COVID-19 pandemic and create a greener and more prosperous future for all.

President 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.

The President used the platform to highlight the need to address substantial financing gap for tests, treatments, critical supplies like oxygen ,and the health systems that enable testing, treatment and vaccination.

He said it is vital that G7 countries – which together account for more than half of global output – provide substantial support to the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator.

“Since its formation a year ago, the ACT-Accelerator has supported more than 70 countries to expand lab infrastructure for testing and delivered millions of rapid diagnostic tests; accelerated development and production of vaccines; delivered more than 69 million doses since February 2021; and procured PPE (personal protective equipment) with a value of more than US$ 500 million,” President Ramaphosa said.

ACT-Accelerator, he said, has the potential to fundamentally change the global trajectory of the disease, but “only if all countries contribute their fair share to close the $16.8 billion funding gap for this year”.

“If all G7 countries met their fair share target, this initiative would be two-thirds funded – and it would be 90% funded if all G20 countries made their fair share contributions.

“If we are to save lives and end the pandemic, we need to expand and diversify manufacturing and get medical products to treat, combat and prevent the pandemic to as many people as quickly as possible,” the President said.

He noted that the proposed Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) waiver is a temporary, targeted and proportional response, which recognises the unprecedented nature of the pandemic.

“Addressing the intellectual property barriers, enabling the transfer of technology and know-how, whilst facilitating backward integration to raw materials and distribution rights, is fundamental for scaling up manufacturing of medical products and equipment.

“The negotiations must be concluded soon because the cost of inaction is measured in people’s lives. If the world is to emerge from this grave crisis, it is essential that we work together to mobilise and direct resources to those countries in the greatest need – and that we do so now,” President Ramaphosa said.

The President further commended the G7 and other countries present for the collective action taken to overcome the current global health crisis and the commitment to create a better, greener and more prosperous world.

Building back stronger 

Meanwhile, in his opening remarks at the first session of the summit on Friday, Prime Minister Johnson lamented the inequalities that have been entrenched by the pandemic, which pose the risk of “being a lasting scar”.  

“We need to make sure that as we recover, we level up across our societies. We need to build back better. I actually think that we have a huge opportunity to do that because as the G7, we are united in our vision for a cleaner, greener world.

“Together, I think there is a potential to generate many, many millions of high wage, high skilled jobs and I think that is what the people of our countries now want us to focus on.

“They want to be sure that we’re beating the pandemic together and discussing how to never have a repeat of what we’ve seen. 

“[We must build] back better together, build back greener, build back fairer, and build back more equal, and maybe in a more gender neutral [and] more feminine way,” Prime Minister Johnson said. –