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Poor nations must have access to Covid vaccine, African faith leaders argue

13 May 2022


President Joe Biden (centre) with delegates at the US-ASEAN Special Summit on the White House lawn in Washington, DC, on Thursday. The special summit is addressing the global Covid-19 response

President Joe Biden (centre) with delegates at the US-ASEAN Special Summit on the White House lawn in Washington, DC, on Thursday. The special summit ...

PROMINENT faith leaders in Africa, including Anglican and Roman Catholic archbishops, have implored the world’s governments to support a People’s Vaccine movement, to ensure that the world’s most vulnerable people have protection against the Covid-19 virus.

On the eve of the global Covid-19 summit of world leaders convened by President Biden, 45 faith leaders issued a joint People Vaccine Alliance statement, calling for an “immediate action to address the massive inequities in the global pandemic response”.

The statement, issued on Thursday, says: “We are one global family, where our problems are tightly interconnected. However, we know the greatest impediment to people getting their vaccinations, tests, and treatment is inequity.

“World leaders must renew their approach to tackling the response to the global pandemic by treating Covid-19 vaccines, tests, and treatment — not as commodities but as public goods, which all people have the right to access. We encourage world leaders to unite and stand in solidarity with people from low-income countries by supporting a People’s Vaccine.”

The group of faith leaders includes imams, archbishops, and sheikhs. Among the signatories are the Archbishop of Cape Town, Dr Thabo Makgoba; the General Secretary of the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa, the Ven. J. W. Kofi deGraft-Johnson; and the RC Archbishop of Kumasi (Ghana) and President of Caritas Africa, the Most Revd Gabriel Anokye.

Organisations represented include the Council of Religions, the Muslim Judicial Council, the All Africa Conference of Churches, the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa, Reconcile International, the Council of Churches in Zambia, Caritas Africa, the Ghana Conference of Religions for Peace, the Institute of Islamic Studies, and the Zimbabwe Interreligious Council.

The signatories deplored the fact that “more than two years have passed since the start of the pandemic, and we have made little progress in ensuring people in low-income countries are fully vaccinated.

“This inequity has created an unjust reality where the Covid-19 death toll is four times higher in lower-income countries than in rich ones.”

Dr Makgoba spoke at a fringe event at the Covid-19 summit, and repeated his warning: “The virus does not see boundaries. The virus respects no borders nor carries any passport.”

In the online discussion with the United States’s international religion ambassador, Rashad Hussain, the Archbishop said that, in an interrelated world, the Church’s vocation was to heed St John’s Gospel and tell the truth “which sets us free. The truth is about the immorality of inequity in vaccine production, access, testing, and lack of human solidarity.”

Dr Makgoba criticised the attitude of “helping ourselves first and leaving others in need with none”. And he made a plea for waiving vaccine patents. “Please focus on low- to middle-income countries — not in aid and the power dynamics of control, but share know-how, and support patent waivers so that these countries can build domestic [vaccine] capabilities.”

Forthcoming Events

2 July 2022
Bringing Down the Mighty: Church, Theology and Structural Injustice
With Anthony Reddie, Azariah France-Williams, Mariama Ifode-Blease, Luke Larner, Will Moore, Stewart Rapley and Victoria Turner.

4-8 July 2022
HeartEdge Mission Summer School
From HeartEdge and St Augustine’s College of Theology.

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