May 24 (UPI) — Global faith leaders and leading medical professionals on Monday called on governments the world over to ensure equitable distribution and access to COVID-19 vaccines, calling it a “humanitarian imperative.”
In a letter published Monday and signed by the likes of World Health Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, the faith and health leaders said the world was at “a turning point” with countries and organizations facing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to address global inequality and reverse the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There is a choice,” they said. “The world of the next 10 years can be one of greater justice, abundance and dignity. Or it can be one of conflict, insecurity and poverty.”
The letter was also signed by Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the grand imam of al-Azhar; Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross; Bishop Ivan M. Abrahams, general secretary of the World Methodist Council; Filippo Grandi, U.N. high commissioner for refugees; Henrietta H. Fore, executive director of UNICEF; and Francesco Rocca, president of the International Federation of Red Crosse and Red Crescent Societies as well as other Jewish, Christian and Islamic leaders.
The letter’s signatories said no country has been unscathed by the pandemic, which has exposed and exacerbated inequalities both between and within countries.
“We have a choice: vaccine nationalism or human solidarity,” they said.
The leaders are calling for equitable access to vaccines between countries by providing doses, sharing knowledge and expertise and fully funding the WHO-led Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator, which is working to provide equitable access to coronavirus-fighting tools, including vaccines and diagnostics.
They are also calling for equitable access within countries to ensure all have access to vaccines and to support countries financially, politically and technically to ensure a global COVID-19 health strategy.
“We are committed, in our different institutions, to offering all the help we can to support actions by communities and authorities,” they said.
The leaders, however, also said the world needs to ensure urgent access to vaccines for all, not just COVID-19 vaccines but vaccines for diseases that continue to infect with serious outcomes.
They said they support a so-called health for all policy, in which “each person’s life is valued and every person’s right to healthcare is upheld.”
“People not only need vaccinations — they need access to healthcare workers who are skilled and equipped to deliver adequate medical support,” they said.
The call is the latest from WHO leaders who have been warning against vaccine nationalism for months.
In late March, Tedros chastised rich nations for rapidly seeking to inoculate their entire populations at the cost of lives in poorer nations that had yet to receive their first doses.
He said then that vaccine disparity was “becoming more grotesque every day.”
In the letter Monday, the leaders said it was “time for decisive leadership.”
“In doing so, they will bring hope not only for the poorest in the world, but for us all,” they said.
The COVAX vaccine program, which is one of four pillars that make up the ACT initiative, has as of Friday shipped more than 69 million vaccine doses to 125 participating nations, according to its website.
Scenes from COVID-19 surge in India
Homeless and migrant laborers affected by the COVID-19 lockdown queue up to receive free cooked food distributed by Sikh volunteers in New Delhi, India, on May 18, 2021. Photo by Abhishek/UPI |