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Archbishop of Canterbury joins global leaders in calling for equitable distribution of vaccines

Posted on: May 26, 2021 12:12 PM
Archbishop Justin Welby

Archbishop of Canterbury and global leaders have issued a joint call for equitable distribution of Covid-19 vaccines around the world.

On the opening day of the World Health Assembly, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have said that global leaders must choose between “vaccine nationalism or human solidarity”.

In a joint declaration co-signed by international faith, health and humanitarian leaders, Archbishop Justin Welby and ICRC president Peter Maurer said that the equitable distribution of Covid-19 vaccines is a humanitarian imperative.

In November 2020, the Primates of the Anglican Communion called for an equitable roll out of Covid-19 vaccines. They called for “the equitable roll out of anticipated Covid-19 vaccines, to prioritise health workers and the most vulnerable first in a highly politicised world”; and they appealed “to the Governments of those countries developing vaccines to work closely with the WHO to ensure that distribution is on a just and fair basis, to the most vulnerable and not merely to the richest.”

The statement is co-signed by Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders, as well as the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies (IFRC); the WHO Director-General; the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Executive Director of UNICEF.

The declaration, which calls for decisive leadership from countries and organisations across the world, says: “there is a choice. 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. We are at a turning point.”

The catastrophic impacts of the pandemic, combined with existing issues of conflict, disaster and famine, mean that the world is facing the challenge of reversing “devastating dynamics”, the leaders say.

“People not only need vaccinations – they need access to healthcare workers who are skilled and equipped to deliver adequate medical support. We need to build a world where each community, regardless of where they live, or who they are, has urgent access to vaccinations: not just for COVID-19, but also for many other diseases that continue to harm and kill. As the pandemic has shown us, in our interdependent world no one is safe until everyone is safe.”

The declaration calls on world leaders to:

  • ensure equitable vaccine access both within and between countries by providing vaccines and funding as well as sharing knowledge and expertise;
  • leave no one behind, including stigmatised and marginalised communities for whom access to healthcare is already a challenge; and to
  • focus on the broader health picture for vulnerable populations – so that people aren’t protected from Covid only to die from Polio.

The full text of the declaration and signatories can be read here.