Christian and other faith leaders including the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby have joined the heads of the world’s largest health and humanitarian organisations to urge governments to choose between “vaccine nationalism or human solidarity”.
The joint declaration, signed by Christian and other faith leaders around the world, says that “equitable vaccine distribution is a humanitarian imperative”, repeating the message: “No one is safe until everyone is safe.”
Joining the faith leaders are the executive director of UNICEF, Henrietta Fore; the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Peter Maurer; the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi; the director-general of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Tedros Ghebreyesus: and the president of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Francesco Rocca.
Among the religious leaders are Justin Welby, the grand imam of al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb; the Ecumenical Patriarchate, His Excellency Emmanuel of Chalcedon; the co-president of Religions for Peace, Rabbi David Rosen; and Roman Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran, and Reformed Churches.
The declaration was made to coincide with the opening day of the World Health Assembly, the WHO’s decision-making body, which will focus on the Covid-19 pandemic.
Humanitarian and faith leaders have been warning of the damage caused by vaccine nationalism for months and have urged countries with high vaccination rates to consider not vaccinating their teenagers and young people but donating their extra vaccines to Covax, the global initiative which aims to give access to a vaccine to the poorest 20 per cent of the world’s population.
The aid agency Christian Aid warned in a new report published last week of “vaccine apartheid”, as wealthy countries monopolise vaccine supplies and leave populations in the poorest countries waiting for perhaps years to be protected.