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Global Faith Leaders Call for Vaccine Equity

Humanitarian and faith leaders around the world signed a joint declaration calling for “equitable vaccine distribution.” With the message: “No one is safe until everyone is safe,” the declaration urged governments to choose between “vaccine nationalism or human solidarity.”

The group asked countries with high vaccination rates to donate their extra vaccines to Covax, a global initiative to ensure fairer vaccine distribution, aiming to give access to vaccine to the poorest 20% of the world’s population, reports Church Times.

The international declaration, released ahead of the 74th World Health Assembly on May 24th, said the Covid-19 pandemic has put the spotlight on the inequalities among countries. “We need to build a world where each community, regardless of where they live, or who they are, has urgent access to vaccinations: not just for Covid-19, but also for the many other diseases that continue to harm and kill. As the pandemic has shown us, in our interdependent world no one is safe until everyone is safe.”

Almost 150 religious leaders – including Rowan Williams, the former archbishop of Canterbury, Thabo Makgoba, the Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the grand imam of al-Azhar; and other Christian and Jewish religious leaders – urged an end to vaccine nationalism, reports The Guardian.

The faith leaders said, “We cannot abdicate our responsibilities to our sisters and brothers by imagining that the market can be left to resolve the crisis or pretend to ourselves that we have no obligation to others in our shared humanity. Every person is precious. We have a moral obligation to everyone in every country.”

They asked governments to release excess doses to countries in dire need of the vaccine, saying “if one part of the world is left to suffer the pandemic, all parts of the world will be put at ever-increasing risk.”

According to the UN, more than 80% of the vaccines went to rich nations, while low-income countries only received 0.3%.

The UN secretary-general, Antonio Guterres, called for the creation of a task force “able to deal with the pharmaceutical companies and other key stakeholders” and ensure vaccine equity around the world. He said, “Grossly unequal access to vaccines, tests, medicines and supplies, including oxygen, have left poorer countries at the mercy of the virus.” He pointed out the Covid-19-related deaths in India and South America.

Guterres reminded governments that universal health coverage and robust primary health care systems are vital instruments in winning against the pandemic.

Meantime, Fionna Smyth, the head of global advocacy and policy at Christian Aid, said there must be “a transformation in how vaccines are produced and distributed – pharmaceutical corporations must allow the Covid-19 vaccines to be produced as widely as possible by sharing their knowledge free from patents.”

The faith leaders said countries must not monopolize the procurement of the vaccine. They warned that, “Studies show that if we focus only on vaccinating our own populations, the world risks global GDP losses of up to $9.2 trillion (with half of that cost being incurred by high income countries) this year alone.”

“We have a choice: vaccine nationalism or human solidarity.”

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