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Equal access to anti COVID-19 vaccines

A statement from Caritas Internationalis and the Vatican Dicastery

gepubliceerd: maandag, 15 februari 2021
Equal access to anti COVID-19 vaccines

Since last year humanity was shaken by fear and uncertainty due to the spread of the COVID-19 virus, brin­ging to light the fragility and vulnerability of human existence. To fight against the propagation of this virus, the human family tried to adapt itself to this unprece­dented and challen­ging situation by obser­ving social distancing and lockdowns, the clo­sing of bor­ders and the massive use of digital technology. Pope Francis has often said that the virus brought us together and only in solidarity can we get out of this pandemic.

This year, vaccines have become available, thus, brin­ging much hope, but also a wider gap in inequality. The rich nations of the Global North that poured money into the production of the vaccines are now wai­ting for a return on their invest­ment. It is believed that the “miracle” of the vaccines would reignite the global machinery. This has led to a kind of focus on the North, shown in nationalism and protectionism. The Global South, where the majority of the poor live, is left out.

Pope Francis encouraged people to get vaccinated because it was one way of exerci­sing responsibility towards others and collective well-being. He reiterated the need for “vaccines for all, especially for the most vulnerable and needy in all regions on the planet. Before all others: the most vulnerable and needy!”1 We are at a crucial moment, an opportunity to live the miracle of charity, through addres­sing together the present challenge.

The access to vaccines across the world has not been as equitable as it should be. It is sad to note that not all nations and those who want or need the vaccine can get it because of supply issues, while in our interconnected world, the vaccines must be made available equitably.

Since every life is inviolable, nobody must be left out. The poor, minorities, refugees, the marginalised are the most exposed to the virus. Taking care of them is a moral priority because abando­ning them puts them and the global community at risk. Our collective well-being depends on how we care for the least.

As we face a global emergency, political lea­ders must look beyond the interests of their own nations and political groups. This pandemic is a global human security problem that threatens the whole human family. Addres­sing the vaccines issue from the perspective of a narrow national strategy might lead to a moral failure in mee­ting the needs of the most vulnerable across the globe.

The current vaccines crisis must be seen in the wider context of the global health situation. Many of the least developed nations still lack basic medical infras­truc­tu­res and the means of sto­ring the vaccines. Moreover, people in distant rural areas are not sensitised and are exposed to other infectious diseases that remain prevalent.

Given this context, the inter­na­tio­nal community should have a holistic, multi-stakehol­der approach to avoid the dan­ger of the pandemic get­ting out of hand in the Global South which may then lead to a global humanitarian crisis again.

The debt of low-income countries should be reviewed. The remission of debt could be a means for genera­ting funds for the multi-stakehol­ders, Faith-Based Or­ga­ni­sa­tions in particular, to upgrade the medical services and facilities in these countries. The money that is meant to pay a poor country’s debt could be spent for strengthe­ning health security.

The question of the patent on the vaccines must also be consi­dered urgently to identify localised production in Africa, Latin America and Asia and accelerate access to the vaccines before it is too late. Invol­ving local actors, in particular Faith-based Or­ga­ni­sa­tions, is important because they have the basic struc­tu­res and the necessary contact with the most vulnerable people such as migrants, the internally displaced and the marginalised.

In line with the observations made by the Dicastery for promo­ting In­te­gral Human develop­ment “Vaccines for all: 20 points for a fair and healthier world,” Caritas Inter­na­tio­nalis urges the decisions makers and the United Nations to act on the follo­wing, namely:

  • Call for a Security Council mee­ting to address the issue of access to the vaccines as a global security problem with firm political decisions based on multilateralism.
  • Undertake the debt remission of the poorest countries as quickly as possible and use the funds obtained to upgrade the medical and health systems in these countries.
  • Promote the local production of vaccines in different technical hubs in Africa, Latin America and Asia and make them available in the next six months by addres­sing the issue of patent and technical collaboration with the poorer nations.
  • Allocate fi­nan­cial and technical support to the local Civil Society Or­ga­ni­sa­tions, and to Faith-Based Or­ga­ni­sa­tions in particular, to ensure the preparation of local communities’ awareness and capacity buil­ding to prepare them to have access to preventive care.

Zie ook Vaccine for all. 20 points for a fairer and healthier world