Patent Rights and Intellectual Property Problems
As vaccination programs against Covid-19 are rolled out in developed countries, it is increasingly obvious that wealthy countries secure most of the vaccines for their own population while little is left for poor countries.
Pope Francis said to the UN General Assembly on 26 September 2021: „If anyone should be given preference, let it be the poorest, the most vulnerable, those who so often experience discrimination because they have neither power nor economic resources.“
Similarly, the incoming Secretary-General to the WTO, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala warns on 16 February 2021 of “vaccine nationalism” and reiterated: “No one is safe until everyone is safe.”
It is the WTO where a simple and quick solution for all could be found. India and South Africa tabled a proposal pointing to the following: Article IX of the WTO provides for temporarily waive patent rights on information relevant to the production of vaccines in “exceptional circumstances” and, if consensus among the WTO member states cannot be found, the same article permits action under a three-quarter majority. Such a temporary waiver and adequate technical and financial support for adjusting production lines worldwide could lower the costs and increase the availability of vaccines enormously. Already, more than half of the WTO member states support this option.
Little surprising, the very states securing vaccines for their own population are those obstructing this approach. This needs to change, because the Covid-19 pandemic indeed is over only, when the virus is pushed back globally.
If you are interested in the discussion and relevant arguments of the ongoing debate, please consult this FactSheet.
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The issue finds support with
- The Jesuits in Africa, see Letter of the President of the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar to the governments of the G20 and EU, here his letter to Germany from 23 February 2021.
- The Vatican. See Statement of Archbishop Jurkovic at an WTO meeting at 23 February 2021
This is a joint initiative of the Jesuitenmission Deutschland, Jesuitenmission Österreich and the Medical Mission Institute Würzburg.