Health and legal advocacy groups and academics have called on South African President Cyril Ramaphosa to urgently start a process to change the country’s laws to protect a Cape Town-based hub for the manufacturing of messenger RNA vaccines against patents held by Moderna Inc.
The group of more than 30 signatories – including Medecins Sans Frontiers, the Anglican Church of South Africa and the Legal Resources Centre – wrote to Ramaphosa asking him to “take the necessary executive action” to safeguard the World Health Organization-backed mRNA vaccine technology transfer hub’s efforts and the ability of low- and middle-income countries to research develop, produce, and register mRNA vaccines.
The group is “deeply concerned that Moderna’s excessive patent protection will hinder the future development and use of mRNA technology,” according to a statement distributed by the People’s Vaccine Alliance.
Moderna has said it won’t enforce patents that effectively give it the right to stop anyone from making or selling an mRNA vaccine in South Africa, during the Covid-19 pandemic. However, the group said even if the pharmaceutical company keeps its pledge, the hub’s work is not safe because it only applied to Covid-19 vaccines.
The hub also intends to research and manufacture mRNA vaccines and therapeutics against other diseases including tuberculosis, HIV and cancer, the group said.
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