Holy See calls for easing of intellectual property barriers for Covid-19 vaccines
By Lisa Zengarini
Speaking Tuesday at the World Trade Organization (WTO) TRIPS Council, Archbishop Ivan Jurkovič, the Vatican Permanent Observer to the UN and Other International Organizations in Geneva, stressed that some existing mechanisms for compulsory licenses under the Agreement are slowing down the rollout of vaccination programmes to the detriment of the poorest nations.
He noted that over the past weeks, the world has experienced how some countries and companies “continue to prioritize bilateral deals, driving up prices and attempting to jump to the front of the queue.”
He also recalled Pope Francis' admonition about “the risk of prioritizing access to the vaccine to the richest.”
Barriers to jabs
Archbishop Jurkovič remarked that, due to insufficient production capacity and the consequent lack of availability of vaccine doses, “most countries of the world are experiencing delays in vaccine rollout programmes.”
Yet, he added, “in many Countries, a large number of manufacturing facilities, with proven capacity to produce safe and effective vaccines, are unable to utilize those capacities, due, inter alia, to Intellectual Property barriers.”
The Vatican representative stressed that, given the absolute necessity of Covid-19 vaccines during the global public health emergency, vaccines should be considered “as a good to which everyone should have access, without discrimination, according to the principle of the universal destination of goods highlighted by Pope Francis.”
Solidarity among nations
He went on to say that “policies and laws should maintain a perspective that is focused on the respect for, and promotion of, human dignity, in a spirit of solidarity within and among nations.”
This, noted the Archbishop, implies that “while recognizing the value of protecting intellectual property rights, we should focus on the purpose of such rights and on the limitations and potential negative consequences of the current system.”
According to the Holy See, the “principles of justice, solidarity and inclusiveness” must be the basis of any specific and concrete intervention in response to the pandemic.
In the light of this, the decision of granting a waiver from the implementation, application and enforcement of some sections of the TRIPS Agreement in relation to prevention, containment or treatment of Covid-19 “would be a strong signal demonstrating real commitment and engagement and thus moving from declaration to action in favour of the entire human family,” Archbishop Jurkovič concluded.