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Persuade Germany to Waive Exclusive COVID-19 Vaccine Production: African Jesuit to U.S.

The Official logo of the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar (JCAM). Credit: JCAM

A member of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in Africa has called on President of the U.S., Joe Biden, to use the July 15 meeting with German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, to persuade her to support the waiver of patent rights on the production of COVID-19 vaccines. 

In a statement shared with ACI Africa Thursday, July 15, the Coordinator of the Africa Task Force of the Vatican Commission on COVID-19, Fr. Charles Chilufya, says the Merkel Summit will be "an epic moral failure" if Germany fails to agree to the waiver that will do away with the exclusive rights granted to manufacturers of the vaccine, therefore facilitating increased production and widespread manufacturing of the inoculation.  

"I would like to appeal to my fellow Catholic, I would like to appeal to the president of America, to continue doing as he is doing, but even do more: Get Germany to do what should be done now; support the waiver, so that more medicines may be produced and may be availed to everyone, every country, and everywhere," Fr. Chilufya says. 

“President Biden’s faith is a central part of his commitment to social justice. Our Catholic social teaching prioritizes over all else respect for the dignity of the human person,” the Jesuit Priest says, adding that the Markel Summit is “President Biden's moment for true global leadership.”

Germany opposed the US-backed proposal to lift patent rights on COVID-19 jabs in May, saying the "protection of intellectual property is a source of innovation.”

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The European nation also criticized President Biden-led U.S. government for supporting the proposed waiver that was submitted to the World Trade Organization (WTO) last year, saying the move by the U.S. would have “significant implications for vaccine production.”

In the statement dated Wednesday, July 14, the Director of Jesuit Justice and Ecology Network Africa (JENA), a department of the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar (JCAM), notes that patents on the COVID-19 vaccines have led to their minimal production, hence a shortage across the globe.

 

“This health crisis is now also a global justice crisis—a failure of humanity,” Fr. Chilufya says. 

The Zambian-born Jesuit Cleric makes reference to the COVID-19 vaccine distribution agency, COVAX, whose leadership says there aren’t enough supplies to cater for poor countries and decries Germany’s support for the patent rights.

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He says, “The world could be producing vaccines far faster if a rich country, like Germany, had not put pharmaceutical industry interests first, at the expense of human life, and blocked the WTO Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) waiver.”

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

“With Germany pushing the European Union to block this initiative by more than 130 nations to temporarily suspend Big Pharma monopolies so more vaccines can be made, vaccine factories are lying idle around the world, including in Africa,” the Nairobi-based Jesuit says referencing hundreds of nations, civil societies, and religious organizations that petitioned the G20 countries to support the waiver of the patent rights on coronavirus vaccines submitted to the WTO last year by India and South Africa.

The lack of vaccines has led to the loss of lives on the continent, Fr. Chilufya says.

In his message addressed to President Biden, he says, “If you were here, to see what is happening—lives lost, livelihoods falling apart—you wouldn't understand why anybody with any little bit of reason and compassion would block a waiver of monopoly powers that protect the profits of a few while letting many people die. Yet this is what Germany is doing.”

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“America provided leadership by supporting the COVID medicine waiver and leading other rich countries to join the U.S. Now, President Biden must move Chancellor Merkel and Germany, to have compassion, to have kindness and to prioritize human life. We believe he can do it,” the Jesuit Priest says.  

He adds that President Biden has the leverage to fix the ongoing crisis by asking Chancellor Merkel to “look toward those who are suffering in Africa, Latin America and in Asia, and join him in preventing unnecessary deaths.”

“Indeed, unlocking Germany's blockage of the WTO TRIPS waiver is the most important thing that President Biden can achieve in his Merkel summit, because of the impact that freeing the vaccine could have on millions of people globally,” Fr. Chilufya further says in his statement shared with ACI Africa.