The Covid-19 pandemic has affected every country in the world. Very few countries have been able to limit its impact, and for most, Covid-19 continues to be a very serious threat. However, the rapid development of several safe and effective vaccines is good news. We give thanks to God for this precious gift. As with many precious gifts, we want to ensure that vaccines are used effectively and shared generously.
With this in mind, we want to raise several important issues with our Methodist people, and with all who will listen.
Firstly, we want to encourage people to take the vaccine whenever it is offered to them. It is safe and effective. There are very few people who will, on medical grounds, be advised not to have the vaccine. We can see no moral or ethical grounds on which Methodist people should refuse the vaccine. Indeed, it is essential that there is as high an uptake as possible, in order to maximise the effectiveness of the vaccination programme at national level.
Secondly, we recognize that many countries in the developing world do not have the resources to roll out mass vaccination on the same scale, or at the same pace, as we do. As Christians we have a responsibility to care for our neighbour – the one next door and the one at the other end of the planet. Accordingly, we must support a generous sharing of vaccines throughout the world. Some may argue this from a self-interest point of view – ‘no one is safe until all are safe’. There may be truth in that, but as Christians our greater motivation is love and justice.
In this regard there are a number of issues we should consider and engage with, prayerfully, practically and politically.
Cost: Wealthy countries and pharmaceutical companies should ensure that poorer regions do not miss out on vaccines simply because of finance.
Education: We recognize that for cultural and other reasons there may be a great reluctance to avail of vaccinations in some places (and not just in the developing world).
The WHO, national governments, and indeed all of us, have a responsibility to promote responsible and accurate messages about vaccine safety and effectiveness. Recognizing other threats: Whilst Covid-19 is the dominant issue at present, we call attention to the fact that over the next few years it is likely that in the developing world more people will die from malaria, malnutrition, and a host of other largely preventable causes than from Covid-19. In dealing fairly with COVID-19 vaccines, we should not neglect these wider and longstanding issues of global injustice.
In conclusion, we call on our Methodist people to roll up one sleeve and get vaccinated. Then, roll up both sleeves to work and pray for greater justice in the task of overcoming Covid-19 throughout the world, of which the Lord has made us all His stewards.Rev Thomas R McKnight BA, MDiv, JD Mrs Hazel A Loney BA
President and Lay Leader, Methodist Church in Ireland