Pope Francis in a protective mask attends an interfaith prayer for peace, along with other religious representatives at the Basilica of Santa Maria in Aracoela, a church on top of the Roman Capitoline, in Rome, Italy, on October 20, 2020.
Guglielmo Mangiapane | Reuters
Pope Francis on Saturday backed the waiver of intellectual property rights for coronavirus vaccines, repeating comments from the U.S. administration earlier this week.
World Trade Organization leaders recently called on member states to agree on a potential waiver of a vaccine patent, hoping to remove obstacles to increasing vaccine production in developing countries.
President Joe Biden’s team backed the idea on Wednesday with Trade Representative Katherine Tai saying it “supports the waiver of that protection for COVID-19 vaccines.”
Speaking on Saturday at a global fundraising event, Pope Francis said the world is infected with the “virus of individualism”.
“A variant of this virus is closed nationalism, which prevents, for example, the internationalism of vaccines,” he said in comments translated by Reuters.
“The second variant is when we put the laws of the market or intellectual market or intellectual property above the laws of love and health of mankind,” the pope added.
Vaccine manufacturers, whose stock prices were affected by comments earlier this week, opposed the idea. Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla he warned on Friday that he would launch a global race for raw materials that threaten the safe and efficient production of vaccines.
Germany and Chancellor Angela Merkel also opposed the renunciation, along with the state BioNTech as a key partner for Pfizer in developing its vaccine. German and other European officials say faster vaccine production and distribution is crucial to ending the pandemic.
“The limiting factor in vaccine production is production capacity and high quality standards, not patents,” a Merkel spokeswoman said in a statement.
The PhRMA, a pharmaceutical industry stakeholder, called the proposal a waiver “an unprecedented step that will undermine our global response to the pandemic and jeopardize safety.”
To date, nearly 157 million coronavirus infections have been reported worldwide and over 3.2 million deaths, according to data collected from Johns Hopkins University.
—CNBC’s Rich Mendez and Kevin Breuninger contributed to this article.