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Eighteen months after SA and India began their campaign for a temporary waiver on intellectual property rights for coronavirus vaccines to make it easier for more countries to make their own more affordable jabs, their efforts are being stymied by rich nations. Talks at the World Trade Organisation are moving at a glacial pace, despite the support of more than 100 countries, as the EU, UK and Switzerland show little sign of softening their opposition to change.

The waiver campaign is a response to the yawning divide in vaccine access that has become a defining feature of the coronavirus pandemic. Today barely 17% of people in Africa have been inoculated, while in rich nations the figure exceeds more than 90%. The continued inequity now sees wealthy countries providing booster shots to their citizens before the majority of people in poor ones have received their first...

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