Pope Francis backs waivers on intellectual property rights for vaccines

by Reuters
Saturday, 8 May 2021 09:45 GMT

Pope Francis holds a weekly general audience in the library of the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican, April 28, 2021. Vatican Media/Handout via REUTERS

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His comments come amid debate over whether the key to ending the pandemic is waiving vaccine patent protection, or making and sharing vaccines more quickly

VATICAN CITY, May 8 (Reuters) - Pope Francis on Saturday supported waiving intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines, backing a proposal by U.S. President Joe Biden that has been rebuffed by some European nations, including Germany.

In a speech to a global fundraising concert to promote fair access to vaccines, the pope said the world was infected with the "virus of individualism".

"A variant of this virus is closed nationalism, which prevents, for example, an internationalism of vaccines," he said in the pre-recorded video message.

"Another variant is when we put the laws of the market or of intellectual market or intellectual property over the laws of love and the health of humanity," he added, recalling the heavy death toll the coronavirus had inflicted on the world.

His comments came in the middle of a debate over whether pharmaceutical companies should waive patent protection for COVID-19 vaccines.

Biden backed such a move on Wednesday, heeding calls from India, South Africa and more than 100 other countries.

However, many European countries, led by Germany and France, distanced themselves on Friday from the suggestion, arguing that key to ending the COVID-19 pandemic was making and sharing vaccines more quickly.

(Reporting by Crispian Balmer; editing by Jason Neely and Clelia Oziel)