Pope Francis backs growing calls for patent waiver for Covid-19 vaccine
To enable 'universal access to vaccines'
Global advocacy groups argue that waiving patents for Covid-19 vaccines could help expand the global supply of shots and narrow the vaccination gap between rich and poor nations.
The Vatican’s official news site reports that in the message, the Pope calls for “universal access to vaccines and the temporary suspension of intellectual property rights.”
Francis urges the world not to forget the most vulnerable in the face of the pandemic, which has “produced death and suffering, affecting the lives of all” and exacerbated existing social and environmental crises.
He also counsels against individualism, saying God instils a spirit of communion “that allows us to generate a different, more inclusive, fair and sustainable economic model.”
Francis’ words follow the groundbreaking decision by US President Joe Biden’s administration this week that the United States would support waiving intellectual property rights to Covid-19 vaccines.
“The Administration believes strongly in intellectual property protections, but in service of ending this pandemic, supports the waiver of those protections for COVID-19 vaccines,” US Trade Representative Katherine Tai wrote in a statement.
The patent waiver proposal, first put forward by India and South Africa last October, has the backing of dozens of mostly developing countries but would need unanimous support at the World Trade Organization before rules could be loosened. EU powerhouse Germany is among those opposed to the waiver.
Macron urges US to end export bans
French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday urged the US to drop restrictions on exports of Covid-19 vaccines and ingredients for those vaccines if it wants to improve vaccine equity.
“I call on the United States to end export bans not only on vaccines, but on components of vaccines that prevent their production,” Macron said at a news conference at a European Union summit in Porto, Portugal.
“We have to work to make this vaccine a global public good. What does that mean? First, produce more of it,” the FrenchPresident said. “The key to producing vaccines faster for all poor and middle-income countries is to produce more.”
Macron criticized the US administration for not exporting enough doses produced in the United States. “Today, the USA exports 5% of what they produce, to deliver a few doses to Canada and Mexico. They have to export more,” he said.
Macron also claimed the European Union had been slower in vaccinating its population than the US or United Kingdom because the bloc had been “more generous than all the others combined.”
“We can be blamed for either slowness or selfishness, but not both,” Macron said.
While the United States has now fully vaccinated more than a third of its population, many poorer nations are struggling to obtain vaccine doses for their elderly and most vulnerable through COVAX, the global vaccine-sharing initiative that provides discounted or free doses for lower-income countries.
Speaking Thursday, Macron said he was “fully in favor” of waiving patents, but what currently limited access to Covid-19 vaccines was their cost, not intellectual property rights.
According to its website, “Vax Live: The Concert to Reunite the World” is a global broadcast special that “will celebrate hope as families and communities reunite after receiving the vaccine, and call on world leaders to step up for equitable distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine.”
Starting at 8 p.m. ET, it will be hosted by Selena Gomez and feature performers including Jennifer Lopez, Eddie Vedder, Foo Fighters, H.E.R. and J Balvin. The broadcast is part of advocacy group Global Citizen’s Recovery Plan for the World campaign.
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