The discovery of the new Omicron variant of COVID-19 in South Africa has renewed the call for Brussels to drop its steadfast vaccine patent defense, which critics say is hampering efforts to vaccinate the entire world against COVID- 19. Scathing EU critics point to the Omicron variant, newly classified as a variant of “concern” by the WHO, as proof of the importance for rich countries to ensure that less wealthy countries have full access to the vaccines they have. need.
The People’s Vaccine, which is made up of more than 50 organizations calling for vaccine fairness and the ban on intellectual property rights, featured the Omicron variant and a postponed World Trade Organization summit as evidence of their demands. .
They said in a statement: “The vaccine apartheid that rich countries and the WTO have refused to deal with is ultimately responsible for the decision to postpone vaccine talks. “
Sara Matthieu, representative of the Greens in the European Parliament, declared: “The rise of the Omicron variant must finally allow the European Commission to see the light of day: we will only get out of this pandemic if the whole world has access to vaccines. affordable. “
She added: “Europe must urgently put people’s health above pharmaceutical benefits and support the waiver now.
” The report [of the WTO summit] is no excuse for inaction, as variations will continue to emerge.
Vaccination rates in South Africa are less than a quarter of the population, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
This figure is far from the approximately 70% reached by France and Germany.
The Omicron variant was first detected in South Africa and has fueled the argument for waiving intellectual property rights with the argument that the variants will be less devastating to a recovering world if everyone world in the developing world has access to vaccines.
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They added that upcoming lab data “will provide more information on whether B.1.1.529 could be an escape variant that may require adjustment of our vaccine if the variant spreads around the world.” “.
Moderna and Johnson & Johnson added that they are examining the Omicron variant, testing its reaction to their vaccine injections.
Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel commented: “From the start we have said that as we seek to defeat the pandemic, it is imperative that we be proactive as the virus evolves. “
He continued, “Mutations in the Omicron variant are cause for concern and for the past several days we have been working to execute our strategy to combat this variant as quickly as possible.”
On Sunday, a third case of the Omicron variant was detected in the UK, following two cases identified in Essex and Nottingham over the weekend.
The government has issued updated guidance on COVID-19 measures in response to the variant’s arrival in the UK, reinstating mandatory face mask rules in shops and on public transport in England.
The health and social affairs ministry said an emergency meeting of G7 health ministers would be held on Monday to “discuss developments on Omicron.”