Global faith leaders call for drug firms to vaccinate world against Covid

Faith leaders have called on states and pharmaceutical companies to produce and distribute enough vaccines to immunise the entire global population against Covid-19, saying there is a “moral obligation” to reach everyone.

Almost 150 religious leaders from around the world – including Rowan Williams, the former archbishop of Canterbury, Thabo Makgoba, the Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, and Cardinal Peter Turkson of the Roman Catholic church – are urging an end to vaccine nationalism. The Dalai Lama is also supporting the campaign.

All leaders have said that it is not right that countries in the global North are hoarding vaccines while low- and middle-income countries are barely getting any. They have demanded that global vaccine production be increased massively, and that countries release their excess doses.

“We cannot abdicate our responsibilities to our sisters and brothers by imagining that the market can be left to resolve the crisis or pretend to ourselves that we have no obligation to others in our shared humanity.

“Every person is precious. We have a moral obligation to everyone in every country," the letter said.

The call, in conjunction with the People’s Vaccine Alliance, came as the White House announced the US will share up to 60m doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine with other countries in the coming months.

Fionna Smyth, the head of global advocacy and policy at Christian Aid, said there must be “a transformation in how vaccines are produced and distributed – pharmaceutical corporations must allow the Covid-19 vaccines to be produced as widely as possible by sharing their knowledge free from patents."

Ms Smyth said that pharmaceutical companies were protecting their monopolies and putting up barriers to restrict production and drive up prices, leaving everyone in danger.

" So long as vaccine solutions are kept under lock and key, there won’t be enough to go around.”

Countries in Africa are running out of Covid vaccines supplies, and there is concern over the availability of further doses, according to the World Health Organization. Less than 1% of the population of sub-Saharan Africa had been vaccinated by mid-April.

India, is facing the worst wave of the virus, is running out of vaccines for its population despite being a large manufacturer.

Meanwhile, the UN-backed Covax initiative has so far delivered 18m vaccine doses to 41 African countries including, Rwanda, Senegal, Ghana, Togo, Tunisia and Botswana, all of which have exhausted their initial supplies. Most Covax supplies to African countries have been coming from India, but the Delhi government has restricted exports in the face of its own mounting crisis.