The fair distribution of vaccines is a humanitarian necessity
There is a choice. The world of the next 10 years can be more justice, abundance and dignity. Or it could be conflict, insecurity and poverty.
We are at a crossroads. COVID-19 has been a truly global crisis where we have all borne the brunt. In many cases, this has led us to reflect on the further injustices that have taken place in parts of the world where the pandemic is yet another layer of misery, instability, and unrest. This inequality has been exposed and exacerbated by the effects of the epidemic, both between and within countries. It will have a global impact for years to come.
The effects of a catastrophe such as the COVID-19 pandemic are measured in the individual’s tragedy and death, as well as national and global disruptions in almost every part of life. No country in the world has been left untouched.
Varieties of the virus, potentially more contagious and more resistant to vaccines, will continue to pose a threat to us if left unchecked now.
We, who have signed this declaration, are representatives of organizations rooted in communities around the world. We work closely with those affected by shocks, disasters and famines, and we know the enormous challenges they face – but also their resilience, even in the worst of circumstances.
In 2021, the world economy will face the worst downturn since 1945. In some countries, this will significantly increase poverty and suffering. For others, it means hunger and death. The fall from the pandemic will follow us for eternity. There will be a continuing economic impact, with all the human suffering that comes with it. Generations of children, especially girls, have dropped out of school and will not return.
The world is facing the challenge of reversing this devastating mechanism, as health is a key factor in such a response. We recommend “health for all”, where everyone’s lives are valued and everyone’s right to health care is respected. People not only need vaccinations – they need access to healthcare professionals who are qualified and equipped to provide adequate medical care.
We need to build a world where every community, regardless of residence or whoever it is, has urgent access to vaccinations: not only because of COVID-19, but also because of many other diseases that continue to harm and kill. As the pandemic has shown us, in a world that depends on others, no one is safe until everyone is safe.
We have a choice: vaccinating nationalism or human solidarity.
Thanks to successful international action, several vaccines have been produced. The World Health Organization, GAVI and CEPI are leading the COVAX initiative, the best effort we have to ensure that vaccines reach people around the world. However, COVAX is only intended to reach 20% of the world’s population – the most vulnerable in low-income countries – by the end of 2021, and it is not yet clear whether it will achieve this goal. Meanwhile, research shows that if we focus only on vaccinating our own people, the world is at risk of losing GDP of up to $ 9.2 trillion (only half the cost to high-income countries) this year alone.
But this is not just a matter of money. In order to achieve a wider global vaccination, complex planning issues, infrastructure and criteria must be addressed. Access to COVID-19 acceleration tools (ACT) is focused on providing a way to accelerate the development, production and distribution of COVID-19 diagnostic and therapeutic products. ACT recognizes and aims to meet the demand for information sharing – whether for technology, intellectual property or production.
However, more needs to be done. Dissemination of information, transfer of technology and strengthening of production processes, to name a few, require the active participation of states and private parties.
We therefore urge world leaders to:
- Ensure fair access to vaccines between countries by providing vaccines, sharing knowledge and expertise, and fully funding access to COVID-19 Acceleration Tool (ACT) acceleration, which seeks to provide equitable access to and implementation of COVID-19 diagnostics, therapies, and vaccines.
- Ensure fair access to vaccines within countries by ensuring that all aspects of the nation are included in national distribution and vaccination programs, regardless of who they are or where they live, including stigmatized and marginalized communities for which access to health care may not be direct.
- Support the state financially, politically and technically to ensure that COVID-19 obstruction is not an independent goal and is instead an important part of a broader health policy, implemented in parallel with communities to improve people’s health and long-term access to health care. We are committed, in our various institutions, to providing all the help we can to support the actions of communities and authorities.
It’s time for decisive leadership. Countries and organizations around the world once in a generation have the opportunity to tackle global inequality and reverse some of the drop from last year. By doing so, they will bring hope, not only to the poorest in the world, but to all of us.
Reverend Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury
Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross
Ivan M Abrahams Bishop, Secretary General of the International Methodist Council
HE Elder Metropolitan Emmanuel of Chalcedon, an ecumenical patriarchy
Rev. Dr. Chris Ferguson, Secretary-General of the World Reformed Church
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO
Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
Henrietta H. Fore, Executive Director of UNICEF
Reverend Dr. Martin Junge, Secretary-General of the Lutheran World Federation
Dr. Azza Karam, Executive Director, Religion for Peace
Francesco Rocca, President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
Rabbi David Rosen, Vice President, Religions for Peac
Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, Grand Imam al-Azhar
HE Peter Turkson Cardinal, Provincial Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, Rome
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