Ending divide on Covid vaccines moral imperative: South African President Ramaphosa

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Johannesburg, May 26 (PTI) Ending the divide between rich and poor nations in the provision of COVID-19 vaccines is a moral imperative, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa told the World Health Assembly on Monday.

'Millions of people in wealthier nations have been vaccinated, while billions of people in poorer countries still wait and are still vulnerable to infection, disease and death. We all need to work together to correct this,' Ramaphosa said.

'This is not only a moral imperative. Effective and comprehensive global vaccination is vital to ending the pandemic. None of us can hope to be safe unless we are all safe,' he added.

'This requires that we attend with urgency and purpose to the huge divide in the provision of the COVID-19 vaccines to the peoples of the world,' the president said.

Stating that the assembly is taking place in one of the most critical periods in recent history, he said the pandemic has made all countries more aware of their strengths and vulnerabilities.

'It has also demonstrated how interconnected we are and how dependent we are on each other for our health and well-being. At this year's World Health Assembly, we are urged to end this pandemic, prevent the next one and build a healthier, safer and fairer world,' Ramaphosa said as he reiterated his call for a waiver on intellectual property rights on the vaccines.

'We must urgently increase vaccine production across the world, including in low and middle-income countries. Among other things, we need all countries to support the call for a limited waiver on intellectual property rights as a mechanism to promote rapid, equitable access.

'This will allow countries to allow the use of intellectual property, share technologies to produce vaccines and therapeutics, lower prices and expedite distribution to everyone, everywhere,' he said.

Ramaphosa also called for the establishment of a global health council that collaborates with the World Health Organization (WHO) to support regional and national response mechanisms.

'As humanity, we are in the midst of a devastating crisis. Let this be a turning point in our attitude towards human health and well-being. Let us deepen global solidarity and cooperation, and let us face the future together,' the president concluded. PTI FH RC

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