Jesuits in Africa Welcome Provisional COVID-19 Vaccine Patent Waiver Deal

COVID-19 Vaccines. Credit: Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar (JCAM)

Members of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in Africa have welcomed the provisional deal to waive patent rights for COVID-19 vaccines, describing it as one of the first steps towards achieving social justice.

On Tuesday, March 15, the European Union (EU), India, South Africa, and the United States of America (USA) reportedly reached a compromise on the intellectual property waiver for COVID-19 vaccines.

The agreement to waive the patent rights, however, needs the support of all 164 members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) before taking effect.

“This welcome compromise for local vaccine production is a first step in taking action for social justice and, as the Holy Father Pope Francis has repeatedly said, informed by compassion for our shared humanity, putting people above profits and nations before corporations,” the Director of the Jesuit Justice and Ecology Network – Africa (JENA), a department of the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar (JCAM), says in a report ACI Africa obtained.

Fr. Charles Chilufya says if agreed upon, the waiver “will partially redress the regrettable hitherto complete lack of humanity and immense moral failure that JENA and partners have advocated against.”


“The global south has the facilities to produce COVID-19 vaccines, and there are vaccine factories lying idle around the world, including in Africa,” says Fr. Chilufya.

In October 2020, South Africa and India submitted a proposal to WTO for a waiver from certain provisions of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) for the prevention, containment and treatment of COVID-19. 

TRIPS is an international legal agreement between members of the WTO that allows the provision of more extensive protection of intellectual property. 

In February last year, Jesuits in Africa were among 100 countries across the globe who petitioned the G20 countries to support the waiver of the patent rights on COVID-19 vaccines submitted to the WTO in 2020. 

G20 is an international forum that brings together governments of 20 of the world’s major economies. The members account for more than 80% of world GDP, 75% of global trade, and 60% of the population of the planet.

More in Africa

In their petition, the Jesuits described opposition to the waiver as “simply indefensible” and “contributing to the deepening global crises of inequality.”

In the March 16 report obtained by ACI Africa, JENA officials say if the compromise of the patent waiver is agreed upon by all WTO members, developing countries will have the authority to use the patented vaccines without needing to seek consent from the owner.

The waiver will then “ramp up vaccine production”, JENA officials say.

“Currently, less than 15% of the population in low-income countries have been vaccinated. That is just an average. In many cases, the number of vaccinated people drop as low as 2 or 5%,” Fr. Chilufya has been quoted as saying in the report, adding, “Supply, and not hesitancy, is the sticky point”

The Zambian-born Nairobi-based Jesuit Priest emphasizes the advantages of waiving the patents to allow production in different nations saying, “It does not help that some of the vaccines sent to these countries expire en route, or have an extremely short shelf-life by the time they land on African shores.”


“Also, donating post-hoarding, close-to-expiry vaccines as has been happening is a dumping, and not a donation,” says Fr. Chilufya.

Magdalene Kahiu is a Kenyan journalist with passion in Church communication. She holds a Degree in Social Communications from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA). Currently, she works as a journalist for ACI Africa.