Vatican City: Ahead of the 12th World Trade Organisation (WTO) ministerial conference, Pope Francis has extended support for waiving intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines and asked the UN body to adopt measures to ensure access to coronavirus shots for all.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has devastating consequences across the globe, health experts have demanded that COVID-19 vaccines should be a universal common good.
Besides this, hundreds of civil society organizations around the world urging support for the TRIPS waiver, a measure that would expand access to lifesaving vaccines and other health products.
However, the EU has opposed India and South Africa's proposal at the WTO to temporarily waive certain intellectual property rules under the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement).
"I add my voice to that of the Pan-American and Pan-African Committees of Judges for Social Rights in calling on the @WTO to adopt measures to ensure access to COVID-19 vaccines for all, especially the peoples of Africa," Pope Francis said in a tweet.
"Equitable access to safe and effective vaccines is fundamental to saving lives and livelihoods. Africa must not be left behind. No one is safe until everyone is safe," he added.
Ahead of the WTO meeting on June 12, negotiators in Geneva finalized their work on two draft texts setting out a WTO response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including intellectual property (IP) response.
The two texts will now be sent to trade ministers attending the organization's 12th Ministerial Conference for review and possible approval.
India is hoping for some positive action on the TRIPS waiver in the upcoming WTO ministerial that begins on June 12. Union Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goel will take part in the conference.
In October 2020, India and South Africa submitted a proposal for a waiver from certain provisions of the TRIPS Agreement for the prevention, treatment, and containment of COVID-19, to the WTO TRIPS Council.
The proposal seeks a temporary waiver from certain provisions of the TRIPS Agreement to the extent that they pose a barrier to accessing COVID-19 products and technologies.