Religious leaders push waiver on Covid-19 patents

NauMai September 2021 If world leaders don’t take steps in the next few months to get Covid-19 vaccines to the world’s poorest countries, then the darkest days of the pandemic…

NauMai September 2021

An activist builds a symbolic ‘patent wall’ in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.
Photo: Fabian Sommer/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

If world leaders don’t take steps in the next few months to get Covid-19 vaccines to the world’s poorest countries, then the darkest days of the pandemic still lie ahead.

This is the view of Eric LeCompte, the executive director of Jubilee USA Network, an interfaith alliance founded to advocate for debt relief for developing nations.

Temporarily waiving Covid-19 vaccine patents is an important step to getting vaccines to the poorest nations, said LeCompte. In August, religious leaders advocated for that action to US Trade Representative Katherine Tai, who expressed support. Now, the decision rests in the hands of the World Trade Organisation.

Temporarily waiving patents would allow countries in the developing world to produce and distribute Covid-19 vaccines, conducting tests and treatments on their own, which quickly increases their inoculation and treatment capacity.

‘If [the World Trade Organisation] doesn’t move forward, we’re not going to have the vaccines we need for global distribution, let alone what it seems now are a necessity for a third shot or booster shot for people who have already been vaccinated in the developed world,’ said LeCompte.

Opponents of waiving property rights fear that if market incentives for developing new medicines are distorted by government action, research and development, such as the extraordinary push that produced the Covid-19 vaccine, will be reduced. On that front, LeCompte stressed the temporary nature of the proposal – a waiver would only last a certain period of time before property rights are restored. 

The meeting with Tai was the first of its kind between religious leaders and the US Trade Representative. Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Military Services, who is a member of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on International Justice and Peace, represented the Catholic Church.

LeCompte noted the importance of the timing of the meeting with not just with World Trade Organisation’s vaccine patent decision pending, but International Monetary Fund and G-20 presidents’ meetings in October that will have a significant impact on the path forward to ending the pandemic. He also called it ‘unfortunate’ that world leaders have moved at a slow pace on global vaccine aid for the nation’s poorest countries. To date, the world’s poorest countries have received less than one percent of Covid-19 vaccine doses, according to the United Nations.

Sources: Crux, NCR Online