THE Vatican has added its voice to those calling for equal access for everyone around the world to the newly emerging Covid vaccines.
On Wednesday, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was approved for use in the UK, amid soaring infections and hospital admissions. The first doses of the vaccine, which trials showed to be at least 70-per-cent effective, are due to be given on Monday. It is easier to store and administer than the Pfizer-BioNTech jab, which was approved by the UK and distributed last month.
Pope Francis, in his Christmas Day message, said that if the emerging vaccines are “to illuminate and bring hope to all, need to be available to all . . . especially for the most vulnerable and needy of all regions of the planet”.
A new document from the Vatican’s coronavirus commission and the Pontifical Academy for Life, published this week, urges world leaders to co-operate with each other and to reject vaccine nationalism.
It states: “The Vatican commission and the Pontifical Academy of Life remind world leaders that vaccines must be provided to all fairly and equitably, prioritising those most in need.”
The head of the Vatican’s coronavirus commission, Cardinal Peter Turkson, said that, while the Vatican is grateful for the scientific community’s speedy development of the vaccine, it is “now up to us to ensure that it is available to all, especially the most vulnerable. It is a matter of justice. This is the time to show we are one human family.”
The document calls for an international agreement to manage patents of any new Covid vaccines and to “keep the price steady in future”.
It repeats the guidance published on 21 December by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, that it was “morally acceptable” for Roman Catholics to receive the vaccines, even if they were developed using the cell of aborted foetuses, as are some of the new Covid vaccines (News, 18 December).
It advises: “We believe that all clinically recommended vaccinations can be used with a clear conscience and that the use of such vaccines does not signify some sort of cooperation with voluntary abortion. While the commitment to ensuring that every vaccine has no connection in its preparation to any material originating from an abortion, the moral responsibility to vaccinate is reiterated in order to avoid serious health risks for children and the general population.”
The World Council of Churches and the World Jewish Congress have also called on world leaders to get involved in decisions about the distribution of vaccines, in order to fight for “global equity” (News, 28 December).