Pope joins Meghan and Harry in calling for ‘universal access’ for Covid vaccines

Pope Francis has joined Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in calling for vaccine patents to be waived in a bid for everyone in the world to get access to a jab.

The religious figurehead has given his backing to the campaign urging pharmaceutical giants to suspend vaccine patents to boost supplies to poorer countries.

In a video message to the Vax Live event, Francis backed “universal access to the vaccine and the temporary suspension of intellectual property rights”.

And he added his condemnation of the “virus of individualism” that “makes us indifferent to the suffering of others”.

“A variant of this virus is closed nationalism, which prevents, for example, an internationalism of vaccines,” he told Vax Live, an online charity concert, which was aired this weekend in aid of the international Covid vaccination effort.”

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Pope Francis waves from a window of the apostolic palace overlooking St Peter’s Square

Despite being heavily pregnant, Meghan prepared a pre-recorded piece for coverage of the Vax Live concert.

Meghan, who is expecting a girl this summer, spoke about issues concerning the Covid pandemic and the empowerment of women.

The event follows experts fearing half a million cases per day could soon be recorded in India as hospitals run out of oxygen.

Duchess of Sussex, 39, did not gesticulate a great deal during the broadcast, a pre-recorded piece for coverage of the Vax Live concert.
Duchess of Sussex did a pre-recorded piece for coverage of the Vax Live concert

Along with the royals, Jennifer Lopez, J Balvin, Foo Fighters and H.E.R. and appearances from celebrities like Chrissy Teigen, Gayle King, Ben Affleck supported the event, which took place on May 8.

The Biden administration is also backing the campaign, which announced that it supported calls by India and South Africa – and many congressional Democrats – to drop intellectual property protections for Covid vaccines.

“This is a global health crisis, and the extraordinary circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures,” said Katherine Tai, North America’s trade representative.

Prince Harry speaking into microphone at Vax Live event
Prince Harry speaking at Vax Live which aired last night (May 8)

“The administration believes strongly in intellectual property protections, but in service of ending this pandemic, supports the waiver of those protections for Covid-19 vaccines.”

But the calls are being fiercely opposed by major drugmakers who argue it would set a precedent that could threaten future innovations, said Pfizer’s chief executive, Albert Bourla.

A lack of vaccine manufacturing facilities was not the problem.

“The restriction is the scarcity of highly specialised raw materials needed to produce our vaccine,” he argued.

Pope Francis speaking at last night's Vax Live
Francis backed calls for ‘universal access to the vaccine and the temporary suspension of intellectual property rights’

Bourla said Pfizer’s vaccines required 280 different materials and components that were sourced from 19 countries.

Without patent protections, companies would start competing for the same ingredients.

The result would be disruptions to the flow of these precious raw materials, he argued.

“Right now, virtually every single gram of raw material produced is shipped immediately into our manufacturing facilities and is converted immediately and reliably to vaccines that are shipped immediately around the world,” he told the Guardian.

Other scientists have warned that it is highly risky to allow inexperienced operators to attempt to start up the large-scale manufacture of vaccines. They argue this could result in people suffering side effects.

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