Leading US bishops praise Biden’s global vaccine pledge

Joe Biden. Credit: Drop of light / Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Jun 23, 2021 / 14:01 pm (CNA).

Leading U.S. bishops on Wednesday praised President Joe Biden for pledging 500 million COVID-19 vaccines to developing countries, and urged his administration to work with Catholic and other faith-based groups on vaccine distribution.

“As world leaders work together to help bring an end to this pandemic, we are grateful for President Biden’s leadership to aid the poor and vulnerable around the world who remain most at-risk,” read a statement on Wednesday from Archbishop Jose Gomez, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference (USCCB), and Bishop David Malloy of Rockford, chair of the USCCB international justice and peace committee.

The bishops responded to recent news that President Biden committed the United States to purchasing 500 million doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for 100 low-income countries.

At a summit of G7 member countries last week in Cornwall, England, the United States and other countries committed to providing in total more than one billion vaccine doses for countries in need. Other G7 partners of the United States include Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom.

“This gesture of global solidarity is timely, responding to those regions with the greatest need, particularly in Africa and South Asia,” Archbishop Gomez and Bishop Malloy.

They asked the Biden administration to partner with Catholic and other faith-based groups on vaccine distribution.

“We encourage the Administration to partner with Catholic and other well established and broad-reaching faith-based health care structures throughout the developing world to facilitate and strengthen vaccine distribution as we work together to save and restore lives,” they stated.

Pope Francis, in his Easter 2021 “Urbi et Orbi” message, called vaccines an “essential tool” to combat the pandemic, and asked the international community, “in a spirit of global responsibility,” to expedite vaccine distribution “especially in the poorest countries.”

In his Christmas 2020 “Urbi et Orbi” blessing, Pope Francis said that a COVID-19 vaccine must be “for all,” and asked for “a solution for everyone: vaccines for all, especially for the most vulnerable and needy of all regions of the planet. Before all others: the most vulnerable and needy!”

Leaders of G7 countries have committed to financing and providing around 2.3 billion vaccines since 2020, according to the White House. Investment in local vaccine production will support at least one billion vaccine doses by the end of 2022, the White House claimed.

The World Health Organization said this week that the global vaccine initiative COVAX has yielded only 90 million doses in 131 countries, far fewer doses than needed to combat the spread of the virus in Asia and Africa, according to BBC News.

The aid group Catholic Relief Services also praised the Biden administration’s 500 million vaccines pledge on June 10, but said there must also be a “U.S.-led plan to get those vaccines in arms.”

Bill O’Keefe, executive vice president for mission, mobilization and advocacy at Catholic Relief Services, warned that virus cases were already “spiking in Haiti, Nepal, Brazil and across Africa.”

“The poor are getting poorer. The quicker we can vaccinate vulnerable populations, the quicker we can make up for such losses as well as prevent future loss,” he said.

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