Pope Francis helps Biden’s name to waive Covid vaccination patents

Pope Francis, wearing a face mask, attends an interfaith prayer service for peace with other religious representatives at the Basilica of Santa Maria in Aracoeli, a church on the Capitoline Hill of Rome in Rome, Italy, on October 20, 2020.

Guglielmo Mangiapane | Reuters

Pope Francis advocated a waiver of intellectual property rights for coronavirus vaccines on Saturday, reiterating the U.S. government’s comments earlier this week.

World Trade Organization leaders recently called on member states to reach an agreement on possible vaccine patent waivers in hopes of removing barriers to increased vaccine production in developing countries.

President Joe Biden’s team approved the idea on Wednesday. Sales representative Katherine Tai said in a statement that she “supports the lifting of this protection for COVID-19 vaccines.”

At a global fundraiser on Saturday, Pope Francis said the world was infected with the “virus of individualism”.

“A variant of this virus is closed nationalism, which prevents vaccines from internationalism, for example,” he said in comments translated by Reuters.

“Another variant is when we put the laws of the market or the intellectual market or intellectual property above the laws of love and the health of mankind,” added the Pope.

Vaccine makers, whose share prices were affected by the comments earlier this week, have spoken out against the idea. Albert Bourla, CEO of Pfizer, warned on Friday of unleashing a global race for raw materials that threatens the safe and efficient manufacture of vaccines.

Germany and Chancellor Angela Merkel have also spoken out against the waiver, with the country’s BioNTech being a key partner for Pfizer in developing its vaccine. Germans and other European officials argue that making and distributing vaccines faster is critical to ending the pandemic.

“The limiting factor in the manufacture of vaccines is the production capacity and high quality standards, not the patents,” a Merkel spokeswoman said in a statement.

PhRMA, a pharmaceutical industry advocacy group, has called the waiver proposal “an unprecedented move that will undermine our global response to the pandemic and put safety at risk”.

To date, there have been nearly 157 million coronavirus infections and over 3.2 million deaths worldwide, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

—CNBC’s Rich Mendez and Kevin Breuninger contributed to this article.

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