Pope Francis calls on companies to release COVID vaccine patents

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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.

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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.

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.

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