(RNS) — When U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai announced Wednesday (May 5) that the White House would back efforts to suspend intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines, it was a victory for Vatican officials and U.S. Catholic groups that had long supported loosening vaccine patents to help expand production of the life-saving shots.
The decision came after a months-long campaign to convince the White House of the wisdom of the move spearheaded by Asian and African nations but aided by the Vatican and U.S. Catholic groups.
And as negotiations continue at the World Trade Organization on what the waivers will look like, President Joe Biden, the second Catholic president in U.S. history, may end up leaning further on Pope Francis and his team at the Vatican.
The proposal to waive the patents was first put before the WTO in October, when India and South Africa called on the organization’s 164 member nations to stop enforcing a wide range of patents related to COVID-19 for the duration of the pandemic. The Holy See was among the first to back the proposal, while the Trump administration joined the United Kingdom and other nations in blocking it.