SA President Ramaphosa Implores G7 To Share Vaccines

President Cyril Ramphosa on Sunday pleaded with G7 nations to help poorer counties access vaccinations amid the Covid-19 pandemic that is sweeping through the globe.

The South Africa president, who attended the three-day summit at the invitation of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, said “we need to expand and diversify the manufacturing of vaccinations.

South Africa is in the midst of a third wave and has been struggling to get its vaccination programme to speed up.

Ramaphosa said South Africa commends 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.

However, he said ending the pandemic “must be our most immediate priority”.

In South Africa, the vaccination programme hit a snag this week after the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) said the 2 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccines at the Aspen plant in Gqerberha will not be released for distribution.

SAHPRA said that the vaccines were affected by contamination issues at a US vaccine plant in Baltimore, US.

On Sunday Ramaphosa told the G7 summit that these vaccines would be destroyed.

He said globally, there were more Covid-19 cases reported in the first five months of 2021 than in the whole of 2020.

“We, therefore, have to act with urgency and at an unprecedented scale,” said Ramaphosa.

“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.

“At the same time, we need to address the substantial financing gap for tests, treatments, critical supplies like oxygen and the health systems that enable testing, treatment, and vaccination.”

Ramaphosa said it was vital that G7 countries – which together account for more than half of global output – provide substantial support to the Access to Covid-19 Tools Accelerator.

Since its formation a year ago, the ACT-Accelerator has supported more than 70 countries to expand lab infrastructure for testing.

It has delivered millions of rapid diagnpercentsts, accelerated development and production of vaccines, delivered more than 69 million doses since February 2021, and procured PPE with a value of more than US$ 500 million.

The ACT-Accelerator has the potential to fundamentally change the global trajectory of this 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 per cent funded if all G20 countries made their fair share contributions,” said the South Africa president.

“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 proposed TRIPS waiver is a temporary, targeted and proportional response, which recognises the unprecedented nature of the pandemic.”

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

“We call on all G7 Members to support the waiver and engage in negotiations that will result in a balanced outcome that massively and rapidly expands production in Africa across the world,” said Ramaphosa.

“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.”

Earlier, the South Africa president said tackling the pandemic had demonstrated the value of a free and diverse media, an active citizenry and robust democratic institutions.

The summit ended on Sunday with a promise from G7 nations to provide one billion Covid-19 vaccine doses to poorer countries.