The Fix the Patent Laws campaign welcomes the announcement that the Biden-Harris Administration supports the temporary waiver of intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines.
“This decision is as result of massive global solidarity and mobilisation by activists around the world, who have been fighting for equitable access for COVID-19 vaccines for all. While we commend this decision, it is important the waiver applies to all COVID-19 medical tools, including treatment and diagnostics, and not just vaccines,” says Umunyana Rugege, Executive Director of SECTION27.
“The proposal, led by the South African and Indian governments, has the support of over 100 countries, primarily in the developing world,” says Rugege. “We hope that this signal from the US helps to shift the position of those governments that still oppose the temporary waiver, including the European Union.”
“While the US and Europe roll out mass vaccinations, the vast majority of African countries have vaccinated less than 3% of their populations due to the lack of vaccine equity. During the HIV epidemic, hundreds of thousands of people in South Africa died while the lives of those who needed the lifesaving antiretroviral were saved in the US and in other rich countries. Equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines is a matter of human rights and is necessary to save lives and livelihoods around the world,” says Rugege.
“All countries must now come together to work on finalising the temporary waiver,” says Rugege. “It is imperative the temporary waiver on intellectual property is passed and that pharmaceutical companies share their technical know-how so that the countries around the world can increase access to vaccines. No one is safe until everyone is safe.”
“We also call on the South African government to finalise the reforms to our patent laws as a matter of urgency. Following almost a decade of advocacy, Cabinet adopted the South African Policy on Intellectual Property, Phase 1,” says Rugege. “The IP policy outlined many reforms that would prioritise people’s constitutionally guaranteed right to access healthcare, yet to date our laws remain outdated. The Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (dtic) must release a bill to amend the relevant Acts and parliament must prioritise the passing of this bill. Whether the state can deliver the required legislative changes will be a test of its commitment to people’s health. We recently picketed to the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition to reiterate our call.”
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Fix the Patent Laws is a joint coalition of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), Doctors Without Borders (MSF), SECTION27, Cape Mental Health (CMH), Diabetes SA, Epilepsy SA, Health GAP, Marie Stopes South Africa, People’s Health Movement (PHM), Rural Health Advocacy Project (RHAP), the Stop Stock Outs Project (SSP), the Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorders Alliance (SABDA), the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), the South African Federation of Mental Health (SAFMH), the South African Non-Communicable Diseases Alliance (SANCD Alliance) and the Cancer Alliance including Advocates for Breast Cancer; amaBele Project Flamingo, Ari’s Cancer Foundation, Breast Course 4 Nurses (BCN), Breast Health Foundation (BHF), Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA), Cancer Heroes, CanSurvive Cancer Support (CanSurvive), Care for Cancer Foundation, Childhood Cancer Foundation of South Africa (CHOC), Gladiators of Hope, Glynnis Gale Foundation UK, Hospice Palliative Care Association (HPCA), Living with Cancer (LWC), Look Good Feel Better (LGFB), Love Your Nuts (LYN), Lymphoedema Association of South Africa (LAOSA), Machi Filotimo Cancer Project, Men’s Foundation, National Council Against Smoking, National Oncology Nursing Society of SA (NONSA), People Living With Cancer (PLWC), the Pink Parasol Project, Pink Trees for Pauline (Pink Trees), Rainbows and Smiles, Reach for Recovery (R4R), South African Oncology Social Workers’ Forum (SAOSWF), South Africa United Against Cancer (SAUAC), The Sunflower Fund (TSF), and Wings of Hope (WoH).