Pope asks pharmaceutical companies to release patents for COVID-19 vaccines

October 16 (UPI) – Pope Francis has called on pharmaceutical companies to drop their patents on COVID-19 vaccines to make them more widely available in poor countries.

Francis made his remarks on Saturday during a 38-minute video-linked speech at the World Meeting of Popular Movements, which brought together social justice movements from around the world, reports America magazine, a Catholic-oriented publication.

The first Latin American Pope Francis pointed out that only 3 or 4% of the population of some countries are vaccinated.

“Make a gesture of humanity and allow each country, each people, each human being, to have access to vaccines,” François said, according to a transcript of his remarks.

As the pandemic continues, a significant gap in access to vaccines has widened between rich and poor countries. According to the New York Times vaccine tracker, about 77% of vaccines given worldwide went to people living in high and upper middle income countries.

In the United States and Canada, 67% of the population has received at least one dose of COVID-19, according to the tracker. In Latin America, this figure is 60% and 56% in Asia. In the Middle East, 40% of the population received a dose and 7.5% in Africa.

Some public health officials have argued that closing the disparity in vaccination rates is necessary to end the pandemic and prevent the emergency of highly transmissible variants of the virus, such as Dela varian. They criticized high-income countries for prioritizing booster shots over first doses to the world’s poor.

“We won’t stop the Delta or COVID-19 variant until the world is vaccinated,” Dr. Anna Durbin, director of the Center for Immunization Research at Johns Hopkins University, told reporters last month.

“Data on the need for boosters keeps coming in, but we really need to focus on vaccinating the unvaccinated before we can think about the booster doses,” she said.

In his speech, François launched other far-reaching appeals. He called on financial institutions to write off the debt of poor countries, natural resource industries to stop polluting, businesses to make food more accessible to the hungry, and arms manufacturers to stop, among others.

“Personal change is necessary, but it is also essential to adjust our socio-economic models so that they have a human face, because many models have lost it,” François said. “And thinking about these situations, I piss myself off with my questions. And I keep asking. And I ask everyone in the name of God.”

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