Catholic leaders urge EU to be guided by solidarity in vaccine distribution

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Catholic leaders in Europe have urged the European Union to be guided by solidarity, fraternity, and social justice as it distributes and administers the COVID-19 vaccine.

In a joint statement Feb. 23, Caritas Europa and the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the EU (COMECE) said that "commitment to solidarity must be the decisive criterion in this historic moment."

"It is urgent to implement mass vaccination campaigns quickly," they said. "We urge the European Union to promote wide-scale vaccination not only for Europe's own safety and protection, but also for global public health as a public good, benefiting people living in poorer nations as much as they benefit people living in countries with the resources to create and produce the vaccines."

The statement urged EU leaders to quickly define in detail the vaccine strategy. 

"After the accelerated development of the vaccines, a stronger focus must be put on manufacturing and deployment," it said.

"We therefore urge the European Union and its member states not to cede to a worrying prevalence of national or economic interests," it continued, "but to persevere in having its internal and external actions guided by the principles of fraternity, solidarity, subsidiarity, social justice and inclusiveness."

The document noted that with Pope Francis, the two organizations believe that the coronavirus vaccine needs to be available to everyone, especially the most vulnerable.

It pointed to a statement by World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom, who said that "the priority must be given to vaccinating some people in all countries, rather than all people in some countries."

It also criticized "deplorable tendencies toward 'vaccine competition' and 'vaccine nationalism' in the form of export bans and other protectionist measures to lock vaccine supplies away from poorer countries."

This risks reversing "decades of human development," according to the statement.

"Ensuring vaccine access for all -- that they are available and affordable -- is a global moral urgency," it underlined.

Caritas Europe and COMECE also advocated for greater support for accurate health education and advocacy campaigns, "to overcome fears of vaccination and misinformation."

"From a global perspective, access to vaccination has regrettably been unequal and inequitable so far," they said.

"Europe should invite what is constructive criticism and listen to the voices calling for vaccine justice," the statement said.

"Europe can make its COVID-19 vaccine policy not only the 'beginning of the end' of the pandemic crisis, but also put it as the 'beginning of a new beginning,' for a renewed policy in the service of the common good and solidarity."

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