South Africa Has the Legal Tools to Challenge the Vaccine Nationalism of Rich Countries


International and national legal frameworks could enable the government to ensure generic Covid-19 vaccines are manufactured locally and in other developing countries, particularly in Africa.

The latter point is important as South Africa, through its chairing of the African Union (AU) and its interventions at the United Nations, has emphasised a solidarity-based approach to the use of vaccines to combat Covid-19. This approach has been sought by UN Secretary-General António Guterres and Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Vaccine nationalism as a barrier to defeating Covid-19, and non-solidarity

At the outset of the pandemic, the WHO, the UN and leaders of countries across the world called for solidarity and cooperation on measures to stem the spread of the virus. Yet, while committing to work with UN-led initiatives such as the Covid-19 Vaccine Global Access Facility (Covax), ostensibly aimed at equitable and science-led global vaccine distribution, the richer countries undermined such collective processes by practising vaccine nationalism - signing agreements with pharmaceutical companies to supply their own populations in a manner that reduces equitable access for others, often leading to forms of vaccine apartheid between countries. As scientists started work on vaccines these countries bought...

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