The Canadian government should do more to share excess vaccines and fund the global distribution system known as COVAX, says Rt. Rev. Richard Bott, the United Church moderator. The church also supports waiving the international agreement on intellectual property rights, to allow vaccines to be produced rapidly and inexpensively around the world.
“Our global interconnections mean that COVID-19 or future pandemics can’t be stopped by political borders, but only by supporting the health of the entire global community,” Bott says. “Those of us in places like Canada…need to push our social and political leadership.” In May 2021, he wrote to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to press for vaccine equity.
By early 2022, about 70 percent of people in wealthier countries had received at least one vaccine dose, but in low-income countries that held true for just 10 percent, according to Our World in Data. Lack of vaccine equity has sparked warnings from the World Health Organization that new variants will continue to emerge as the virus circulates among large unvaccinated populations.
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The United Church of Canada has raised more than $750,000 to facilitate COVID-19 vaccinations in other countries and to support the church’s global partners in their pandemic responses. “We can give money, but we need advocacy alongside that,” says Sarah Charters, the denomination’s director of philanthropy.
The United Church is part of ACT Alliance, a global coalition of church-based development and relief organizations. ACT has pressed the World Trade Organization, the European Union and other global and regional bodies to cut out blockages in the production and distribution of vaccines.
Together with a network of Canadian faith communities called Love My Neighbour, the United Church launched its Pay It Forward campaign last July in support of a UNICEF effort to encourage people to buy a vaccine for someone in another country. The United Church is also encouraging its members to write to the prime minister and their MPs to advocate for vaccine equity.
This story first appeared in Broadview’s June 2022 issue.
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