Caritas Internationalis appealed for a waiver of trade-related COVID-19 vaccine intellectual property rights for developing countries at the 12th World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference in Geneva this week.
The appeal came in a statement delivered to WTO ministers as they meet from June 12 to 15 to review the functioning of the multilateral trading system and to take action on the future work of the organization.
“After 18 months of negotiations regarding the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, Caritas Internationalis would have wished that the reality of COVID-19 could open the door for finding and implementing effective, broad and comprehensive solutions to address the life-threatening challenges faced by the poorest and most vulnerable people of our world,” read the Caritas statement.
It said that waiving all intellectual property rights for the duration of the pandemic “will enable countries in the Global South to produce vaccines and build stronger and resilient health systems capable of coping with potential future pandemics.”
“This cannot be done unless a quick transfer of knowledge through training and accompaniment to produce vaccines is agreed upon,” read Caritas’ statement.
Caritas Internationalis is a confederation of 162 Catholic relief, development and social service organizations operating in over 200 countries and territories worldwide.
Ahead of the WTO’s ministerial conference, Pope Francis voiced his support for the waiving of intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines and asked the United Nations body to adopt measures to ensure access to coronavirus shots for all.
“I add my voice to that of the Pan-American and Pan-African Committees of Judges for Social Rights in calling on the @WTO to adopt measures to ensure access to COVID-19 vaccines for all, especially the peoples of Africa,” Pope Francis said in a tweet.
“Equitable access to safe and effective vaccines is fundamental to saving lives and livelihoods. Africa must not be left behind. No one is safe until everyone is safe,” he added.
Echoing the pope’s appeal, Aloysius John of Caritas Internationalis said it is “a basic right for every person to have access to healthcare in all circumstances, especially during pandemics.”
“In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, which continues to impact the lives of millions of people worldwide, it has become evident that the citizens of developing nations should have equitable access to life-saving vaccines,” said John, Caritas Internationalis’ secretary general.
According to the latest UN figures, only 17.6 percent of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, while 72.2 percent of people in high-income countries have been vaccinated with at least one dose.
The Caritas statement noted that the poor “have been left alone and do not have access to healthcare, vaccines and essential health technologies and resources to face COVID-19 and emerging variants.” – with a report from Vatican News