Fr Leonard E Dollentas
Pope Francis, who has been vaccinated against the virus, has spoken about about the altruistic and health value of vaccinations amid the pandemic, which is seeing a resurgence in many countries. But today, one of the challenges of Covid-19 vaccination efforts is guaranteeing an equitable distribution of vaccines around the world. To address this situation, some Catholic-inspired institutions and companies are working to give vulnerable communities and countries better access to health resources.
On September 27, the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome held a roundtable discussion on the topic. Panel participants included Maria Amparo Alonso of Caritas Internationalis; Dr. Ramón Tallaj, the President of SOMOS Community Care, a healthcare company that has provided close to 2 million vaccines to minority communities in New York City; Linda Corbi, the Project Manager of Harambee Africa, a non-profit organization that is working on the ground in Congo, Nigeria and Ivory Coast; and Fr. Christian Mendoza, an expert of Catholic Social Doctrine from the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross. The meeting was moderated by Seàn-Patrick Lovett, director of Vatican Radio’s English Programme for 43 years.
The meeting aimed to encourage private and institutional entities to continue to provide health assistance to vulnerable people; foster solidarity among private institutions; and raise awareness of international cooperation in this task. The panel addressed the present situation of vaccine efforts throughout the world: 50% of people in affluent nations are fully vaccinated as opposed to around one percent of people in less affluent countries. They called to encourage greater international solidarity and cooperation in the distribution of vaccines and in providing health care to people who are most vulnerable and in need. The panel members were not simply talking about the problem, they were already putting words into action, helping vulnerable people on the ground. Not just in developing countries but in the peripheries of the world’s wealthiest nations.
The discussion was set on the topic in a broader moral context to help every Catholic to understand what Catholic social teaching says about the obligation to care for our own health and for the health of others. Fr. Christian Mendoza, one of the panel members said that the Church teaches very clearly that we have the obligation to take care of our life and physical health. He mentioned that the sources of this teaching are the Catechism of the Catholic Church and Evangelium vitae, a letter written by John Paul II. Fr Christian emphasized: “There, it stands very clearly, that life and physical health are human goods, and as human goods, they come back to men so if we take care of them, we are taking care of ourselves. But there are two conditions as the catechism says, life and physical health are precious gifts entrusted to us by God. We must take care of them, taking into account the needs of others and the common good.” Towards the conclusion of the panel discussion, the panel moderator Sean Patrick Lovett reminded everyone of the words of Pope Francis: “I urge the entire international community, in a spirit of global responsibility, to commit to overcoming delays in the distribution of vaccines and to facilitate their distribution, especially in the poorest countries.” (Photo courtesy of Catholic Relief Services)