May 8 (UPI) — Pope Francis spoke in favor of waiving intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines Saturday.
Speaking at the Vax Live benefit concert streamed Saturday to promote vaccination and call on leaders to ensure the COVID-19 vaccine will be available globally, Pope Francis said the world has been infected by the “virus of individualism.”
Individualism “does not make us freer or more equal or more brotherly or sisterly, but rather makes us indifferent to the suffering of other,” said a script of his remarks posted to the Vatican’s website.
“And a variant of this virus is closed nationalism, which prevents, for example, an internationalism of vaccines,” Pope Francis said. “Another variant is when we put the laws of the market or intellectual property above the laws of love and the health of humanity.”
The message came as India set a record for the highest number of COVID-19 deaths in a day, with 4,000 deaths recorded Saturday. The country is in the throes of a surge of coronavirus cases worsened by a slow vaccine rollout and an oxygen shortage that has left some patients dying as they wait for assistance.
His message echoed the position taken by President Joe Biden’s administration this week, as well as that taken by global health advocates.
Earlier this week U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said the United States supports waivers on IP protections on COVID-19 vaccines and will participate in World Trade Organization negotiations to facilitate waivers.
The World Health Organization and Doctors Without Borders both praised the administration’s announcement.
Vaccine makers, whose stock prices dipped in the wake of the announcement, have spoken out against the idea, and German chancellor opposes a waiver as well.
Those who support a vaccine waiver say doing away with vaccine patents could help more quickly close the gap in vaccine access between rich and poor nations.
A spokesperson for Merkel’s administration told CNBC that the real limiting factor in vaccine production is “production capacity and high quality standards, not patents.”
PhRMA, a pharma industry interest group, said a waiver would “undermine our global response to the pandemic and compromise safety.”