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German Leader Faces Public Pressure Over Global Vaccine Development

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Thursday, July 15, 2021   

NEW YORK -- Buffalo and New York City are among the U.S. sites where demonstrators are gathering this week to convince Germany's leader to reconsider her position on COVID-19 vaccine patents.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel meets with President Joe Biden today. Trade groups want to capture her attention by calling for a waiver of trade-related intellectual property rights (TRIPS) for the vaccines, to allow greater access for developing countries.

The U.S. supports it, but Germany remains opposed.

George Kimball, New York state director of the Citizens Trade Campaign, said it is a big opportunity to pressure a world leader to do the right thing.

"Based on the CDC and the World Health Organization (WTO), there needs to be 15 to 20 billion vaccines produced to vaccinate the world," Kimball noted. "And Pfizer, Moderna, J & J (Johnson & Johnson) don't have that capacity. So, we have to, you know, share the technology."

For its part, Germany cited factors such as quality control and manufacturing supply in not advancing the waiver. The demonstrations come the same week the global death toll from COVID-19 has surpassed four million. New York City's demonstration was held yesterday; Buffalo's is today.

In the U.S., some racial groups have faced barriers in accessing COVID vaccinations, but public health officials say it's now widely available across the country. That isn't the case in low- and middle-income nations.

Dr. Pauline Muchina, representative for Africa at the American Friends Service Committee, hopes Merkel is convinced to drop Germany's opposition.

"The fact that many countries, like my home country of Kenya, will not receive full vaccines until 2024 is very, very unjust, and all of us are not safe until we are all safe," Muchina argued.

TRIPS was waived by the WTO in 2003 to allow the import of cheaper, generic drugs into developing
countries that lack manufacturing capacity, a change made permanent in 2017.

Chancellor Merkel's visit comes days ahead of a W-T-O meeting to decide the issue.


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