Speaking at the World Trade Organization (WTO) TRIPS Council, a representative of the Holy See has called out some countries and companies for their existing policies in distributing COVID-19 vaccines.
Archbishop Ivan Jurkovič, the Vatican Permanent Observer to the UN and Other International Organizations in Geneva, said that compulsory licenses and intellectual property rights have been slowing down the rollout of vaccination programs to poor countries. (Read: Meet the Pinoy Priest Who Is Developing a COVID-19 Vaccine for All)
He said that amid the global health crisis, some countries and companies are still choosing to “continue to prioritize bilateral deals, driving up prices and attempting to jump to the front of the queue.”
According to Archbishop Jurkovič, “most countries of the world are experiencing delays in vaccine rollout programs” due to insufficient production capacity and the consequent lack of availability of vaccine doses. (Read: Caritas PH Joins Pope Francis’ Call for COVID-19 Vaccine ‘for All’)
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.”
With this, the Archbishop echoed Pope Francis’s calls to make the vaccines available for all. In this global health crisis, he said, 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
Archbishop Jurkovič went on to say that while protecting intellectual property rights is important, we should also “focus on the purpose of such rights and on the limitations and potential negative consequences of the current system.”
“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,” he added.