Pope Francis Echoes W.H.O.’s Condemnation of ‘Vaccine Nationalism’

In this Aug. 22, 2018 file photo, Pope Francis is caught in pensive mood during his weekly general audience at the Vatican. Francis' papacy has been thrown into crisis by accusations that he covered-up sexual misconduct by ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini, File)
AP Photo/Andrew Medichini, File

ROME — Pope Francis said Wednesday that an eventual coronavirus vaccine should be universal and prioritize the neediest rather than the wealthiest.

Humanity must “plan the treatment of viruses by prioritising those who are most in need,” the pope told the faithful in his weekly audience delivered from the Library of the Apostolic Palace. “It would be sad if, for the vaccine for Covid-19, priority were to be given to the richest!”

The pontiff also denounced vaccine nationalism, echoing an appeal Tuesday by the director-general of the World Health Organization (W.H.O.), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, as Breitbart News reported.

“It would be sad if this vaccine were to become the property of this nation or another, rather than universal and for all,” Francis said.

On Tuesday, Tedros said that “no one is safe until everyone is safe” from the virus, insisting that the United Nations should be the one to determine who are most in need and where vaccines should be sent first.

In Wednesday’s audience, the pope said that the coronavirus pandemic has “exposed the plight of the poor and the great inequality that reigns in the world,” adding that the virus has “exacerbated” the great inequalities and discrimination that already existed.

Proposing a “dual” response to the pandemic, Francis said it is essential to “find a cure for this small but terrible virus,” while also working to cure “a larger virus, that of social injustice, inequality of opportunity, marginalisation, and the lack of protection for the weakest.”

“We are all worried about the social consequences of the pandemic. All of us,” he said. “Many people want to return to normality and resume economic activities. Certainly, but this “normality” should not include social injustices and the degradation of the environment.”

“The pandemic is a crisis, and we do not emerge from a crisis the same as before: either we come out of it better, or we come out of it worse,” he added. “We must come out of it better, to counter social injustice and environmental damage.”

The pontiff went on to suggest that public monies used to provide economic assistance should specifically target those industries that “contribute to the inclusion of the excluded, the promotion of the least, the common good or the care of creation.”

“If the virus were to intensify again in a world that is unjust to the poor and vulnerable, then we must change this world,” Francis said.

Following the example of Jesus, “we must act now, to heal the epidemics caused by small, invisible viruses, and to heal those caused by the great and visible social injustices,” he said.

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