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South African Minister welcomes Covid vax patent waiver

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Johannesburg: South African Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition Ebrahim Patel welcomed the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) agreement to waive Covid-19 vaccine patents, 20 months after the country proposed a broad waiver to combat the pandemic.

The WTO’s 12th Ministerial Conference at the organization’s headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, with members agreeing on key issues such as pandemic response and TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) waiver related to Covid-19, reports Xinhua news agency.

The recent agreement allows Governments to authorize local manufacturers to produce vaccines or their ingredients, substances or elements and utilise processes which are covered by patents without the permission of the patent holders for five years.

South Africa and India first proposed the waiver to the WTO in October 2020, with support of other developing countries during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

South Africa “fought” for the agreement until it was concluded in the early hours on Friday morning, Patel told a media briefing.

For a number of months after South Africa tabled the proposal, developed countries blocked any attempt to get that discussion to move into text-based negotiation, he added.

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