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PC(USA) urges Biden to back broader global vaccine distribution

Washington office calls for waiving copyrights to bolster production of vaccines, treatments

by Rich Copley | Presbyterian News Service

Photo by Daniel Schludi via Unsplash

LEXINGTON, Kentucky — The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness is renewing its call for the administration of President Joe Biden to support waiving intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines, tests, and treatments to address the surge of cases around the world.

While acknowledging the millions of surplus doses of COVID-19 vaccine the United States and other wealthy nations have donated, the Action Alert from the Capitol Hill Office (OPW) says much more is needed. The alert also referenced a letter signed by more than 80 faith-based organizations, including the PC(USA), making the same call.

“We are concerned by the rapidly rising COVID-19 infection rates in many parts of the world, as well as the persistent limitations on access to vaccines, particularly in most African nations,” the alert states. “The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s global partners report rising casualty rates, often in rural areas where access to health facilities is limited and health statistics are difficult to compile with accuracy. We need a full-scale global vaccine campaign to address the grave threats so many are still facing from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“To bolster global vaccination, it is critical that world leaders support a temporary waiver on the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights or ‘TRIPS’ agreement. This agreement requires WTO countries to extend monopoly protections on COVID-19 vaccines, tests, and technology. This one provision blocks other countries and manufacturers from developing COVID-19 vaccines so desperately needed worldwide.”

The OPW Action Alert provides readers with tools to send this message, or a modified version of it, to the White House.

In addition to waiving the TRIPS agreement, OPW is calling for:

  • The United States to continue distributing surplus vaccine around the world through the World Health Organization initiative for lower-income countries, and to provide storage, distribution, and administration support where needed.
  • Launch a global vaccine campaign of an appropriate scale to address the pandemic.
  • Support technology-sharing initiatives such as the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP).
  • Encourage the European Union and G20 nations to fully support these efforts.

“We have the vaccines, the technology, and the know-how to vaccinate the world,” the Alert says. “What we lack is the political will. Although the U.S. and other wealthy nations have offered to send millions of vaccines abroad, billions are needed to vaccinate the world’s population to avoid additional waves of the virus and more deadly variants like the delta variant which has now spread widely.”

The Office of Public Witness is one of the Compassion, Peace and Justice ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

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