ROME – In a video message during a “Vax Live” benefit concert, head of the Catholic Church Pope Francis has thrown his support behind increasing calls for Covid-19 vaccination patents to be waived to achieve universal access to vaccines.
Arguing for ‘temporary suspension of intellectual property rights’, he urges the world to not 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.
His words are followed by a groundbreaking decision by US President Joe Biden this week, supporting 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.
So far only U.S. firm Moderna waived patent rights in October on its vaccine, which uses using the latest mRNA technology, but no other firm has yet announced that it will try to copy the shot.
The patent waiver proposal was first put forward by India and South Africa last October, and has the backing of dozens of mostly developing countries but requires unanimous support at the World Trade Organization before rules could be loosened. Germany is among the major EU countries opposed to such a waiver.
French President Emmanuel Macron has questioned the sharing of patents, stating how this was not the main issue while calling out Britain and the United States for blocking the export of vaccines and their ingredients to the wider world.
Experts say waivers could take years to negotiate and would not address the immediate need to manufacture more doses fast.