Pope Francis calls on companies to release COVID vaccine patents
Pope Francis called on pharmaceutical companies on Saturday to release patents to make COVID-19 vaccines more accessible to the poor, Reuters reports.
Why it matters: There is a stark divide between countries that have access to COVID-19 shots and those that don't, and the gap has widened as some wealthier countries have begun distributing third doses.
- Just 2.2% of people in low-income countries, mostly in Africa, have received a single dose, according to the Wall Street Journal.
- Of the over 6 billion vaccines given globally, just 2% have been administered in Africa, the World Health Organization said last month.
Driving the news: Moderna recently came under fire for not doing enough to vaccinate low-income countries.
- The company has been supplying its vaccine almost exclusively to wealthy nations, the New York Times reported over the weekend.
The big picture: The longer it takes a country to vaccinate its population, the more likely it becomes that a new variant will undermine the efficacy of the vaccines, according to the World Health Assembly.
- In September, the WHO said that just 15 out of 54 African countries had fully vaccinated 10% of their populations against COVID-19.
What he's saying: "Thinking about these situations (of exclusion and inequality), I make a pest of myself with my questions. And I go on asking. And I ask everyone in the name of God," Francis said while speaking to the World Meeting of Popular Movements, per Reuters.
- "But the pope must not stop mentioning this teaching, even if it often annoys people, because what is at stake is not the pope but the Gospel," he said.