Shortage of patented chemicals for Covid-19 test curbs SA testing capacity - MSF
A global shortage of the chemicals needed to test for the coronavirus is curtailing South Africa’s testing capacity
This relates to patents held by pharmaceutical companies preventing South Africa from manufacturing its own.
Access Campaign Advocacy Officer at Médecins Sans Frontières(MSF), Candice Sehoma, talks to Refilwe Moloto about the shortage of chemicals needed to produce coronavirus testing kits.
Can governments override these patents in special circumstances?
Sehoma says for ten years MSF in colation with 40 other organisations has been advocating for South Africa's patent laws to be changed to enable affordable access for medicine, and has made some provisions to safeguard public health.
One of those provisions pertains to compulsory licencing which she says is especially critical when it relates to a situation such as Covid-19 treatment,
We see shortages of medicine, testing tools - so compulsory licence is an important health safeguard enables governments to override patents to allow for the local production of medicine and diagnostics.Candice Sehoma, Access Campaign Advocacy Officer - MSF
She says there are standard procedures and mechanisms to allow for compulsory licenses though this has beot been used to date.
In South Africa, we haven't really used the compulsory licence because we don't have any mechanisms at the moment to allow for such, hence we have been advocating all these years for that.Candice Sehoma, Access Campaign Advocacy Officer - MSF
She says various countries such as Israel and Chile have used these mechanisms to ensure that there is sufficient local supply available to treat people.
Sehoma says it is not too late for South Africa to do this and the mechanisms are in place but they are waiting for government to help foot the bill.
It is a process that can be fast-tracked...because we don't have enough global supply.Candice Sehoma, Access Campaign Advocacy Officer - MSF
There have to be mechanisms put in place to enable local production and South Africa does have some capacity to do so.Candice Sehoma, Access Campaign Advocacy Officer - MSF
Listen to the interview below:
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