HomeNewsPhilippine faith groups join global campaign for free COVID-19 vaccine

Philippine faith groups join global campaign for free COVID-19 vaccine

Faith-based organizations in the Philippines have joined a global campaign that calls for a patent-free COVID-19 vaccine that should be made available without cost to the public.

Oxfam International has launched “The People’s Vaccine” initiative that urges governments and stakeholders to ensure that when a safe and effective vaccine is developed, “it is produced rapidly at scale and made available for all people, in all countries, free of charge.”

The international aid agency said that although it is a “political challenge,” the world “will only be safer once everyone can benefit from the science and access a vaccine.”

More than 140 world leaders and experts have already signed the petition that was drafted for health ministers during the World Health Assembly on May 18.

This week, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines and the mainline Protestant National Council of Churches in the Philippines expressed support for the campaign.

Father Edwin Gariguez, executive secretary of Caritas Philippines, said businesses and governments should put the welfare of the people first before profit.

“We are calling for free COVID-19 testing, treatment, and this vaccine because we know that when the vaccine is developed, the poor will be left behind again,” said the priest.

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He said developers of the vaccine, pharmaceutical companies, and governments around the world “must ensure that everyone has access” to it.

Father Gariguez said this is the right time for companies to display their “social vision” and “extend compassion” to people, especially those who are most vulnerable and poor.

“We are pressing for the principle of inclusion. Once the vaccine is available, it is a must that no one is denied access to it, regardless of political, economic, or religious status,” he said.

The priest noted that the current global political and economic systems disqualify the poor from most opportunities because of their limited purchasing power.

Residents of Quezon City undergo COVID-19 tests at a facility set up by the local government in April. (Photo by Jire Carreon)

The “People’s Vaccine” campaign aims to ensure mandatory worldwide sharing of all COVID-19 related knowledge, data, and technologies with a pool of COVID-19 licenses freely available to all countries.

Sywlyn Sheen Alba, national coordinator of ACT Alliance, said their support for the “People’s Vaccine” campaign “reflects how we would want our world leaders to change, to value life over the economy.”

ACT Alliance is a global alliance of more than 145 Protestant and Orthodox churches and related organizations in over 120 countries.

“The COVID-19 crisis has put the world to stop, but with the ‘new normal’ being pressed, it seems that we haven’t gotten our lesson yet,” said Alba.

She said businesses and corporations still operate “as usual” while the health care system tries to catch up with the increasing number of COVID-19 cases every day.

“This pandemic showed us how wide the gap between the rich and the poor is and how depressed the situation for the most vulnerable can be,” said Alba.

She said inequality “still reigns and various injustices pushed the world’s majority in a hopeless and uncertain state” even in the time of the pandemic.

“Now more than ever, we, especially our leaders, must rethink our ways,” she added.

“Protection from COVID-19 must be accessible to everyone, meaning, it is not only for those who can afford to be spared from acquiring the virus but all humans,” Alba added.

As of May, 159 vaccine candidates were in the early stage of development as either confirmed active projects or in “exploratory” or “preclinical” development.

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