The Vatican this week expressed support for calls to ease international patent protections and speed up sub-licensing agreements for the production of COVID-19 vaccines.
Archbishop Ivan Jurkovič, Vatican Permanent Observer to the UN, stated that some existing mechanisms for compulsory licenses are slowing down the rollout of vaccination programs.
He said 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.”
Speaking at the World Trade Organization Council this week, Archbishop Jurkovič cited Pope Francis’ warning about “the risk of prioritizing access to the vaccine to the richest.”
He noted 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 programs.”
Archbishop Jurkovič said that 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.”
He said that 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.”
The church official said “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.”
“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,” the archbishop said.
He added that the “principles of justice, solidarity and inclusiveness” must be the basis of any specific and concrete intervention in response to the pandemic.
Meanwhile, the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union and Caritas Europe issued a statement calling for a quicker vaccination rollout in Europe, especially in poorer countries.
The church leaders also called for the opening up manufacturing possibilities in more countries and a greater sharing of European vaccine resources with poor countries around the world during the pandemic.