In an August 19, 2020 audience, Pope Francis said that a COVID vaccine must be “universal and for all,” rather than “the property of this nation or another.” In his Christmas Urbi et Orbi blessing, he reiterated his point that a vaccine must be “for all.”
“I ask everyone -- government leaders, businesses, international organizations -- to foster cooperation and not competition, and to seek a solution for everyone: vaccines for all, especially for the most vulnerable and needy of all regions of the planet. Before all others: the most vulnerable and needy!” Pope Francis said.
The Catholic doctrine of the universal destination of goods does apply in the vaccine distribution conversation, Moschella explained to CNA.
“When it comes to the genuinely superfluous goods that one person has, those goods really in some sense are the property—morally speaking, ‘belong to’—the others who are in dire need of them,” Moschella said.
However, she added that more information is needed on why the Biden administration is not sending the vaccine abroad. For instance, officials could be reasonably certain that FDA approval for the vaccine is not far away—and with many Americans yet to be vaccinated, the approval could present an opportunity to more quickly achieve herd immunity.
If the United States eventually achieves herd immunity and still has extra vaccine doses on hand with other countries in need of them, she said, the doses at that point could probably be considered superfluous and it could be wrong to keep them in the United States.
Other questions apply to this conversation, too, Brehany noted—namely the high mortality rate of developed countries in the Northern Hemisphere. According to Johns Hopkins University, Czechia has the highest mortality rate from COVID-19 in the world, followed by the United Kingdom, Hungary, Italy, and then the United States.
A high mortality rate might be another reason for the United States to hold on to doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, with so much of its population still yet to be vaccinated, he said.
Ultimately, the vaccine should be made available to other countries not out of any national interest for the United States, but because citizens of these countries are fellow human beings, Brehany emphasized.