“A Vaccine for All”, a worldwide campaign for global access to vaccines against Covid-19, kicked off today at 13.00 Italian time, along with a symbolic action to provide medical care and vaccinations to people living in the Brazilian Amazon Region.
The campaign is being promoted by an international network of more than 40 organisations from different countries with different cultures and religions.
“The possibility to be vaccinated should not be limited to a privileged few; it is every person’s right. So we are working both at political and community level to guarantee this right to every person.” Conleth Burns, a 23-year-old law graduate from Northern Ireland declared this during a press conference, which marked the opening of this campaign. Klara Piedade, a young law graduate from the State of Parà in Brazil stated that the date for the official launching of this campaign has not been chosen at random: it was planned to be on the eve of the G-20 World Summit. Piedade was representing the Youth for a United World, young people of the Focolare Movement, who started promoting this campaign during this year’s edition of United World Week, an event that focused mainly on the concept and practice of “care” in all spheres: political, environmental, social and economical. “As a Brazilian I can say that the pandemic situation, that hit indigenous and riverine populations, is much worse than official figures show. The people who live in these areas are forgotten by society; they live far from urban and care centres, and today they are hit not only by a health crisis, but they also by social, economical and environmental problems. Through this campaign, we are proposing an online donation to support and show care to the inhabitants of this region, who live on the banks of the Amazon and have no access to social and health care”. Mario Bruno, an Italian, who is the international president of the Political Movement for Unity, a promoter of the campaign together with the Focolare Youth for a United World, clarified that this campaign started precisely on the eve of the day when the international community would make known its orientation towards a solution: would it be suspension of patents or would it be sharing of them, with a sort of ‘patent pool’ through which pharmaceutical companies decide to share licences for their productions in poorer countries. “We ask for agreements to be reached with pharmaceutical companies whereby affordable prices are established for the poorest countries. We appeal to governments to be urged by the desire of universal brotherhood and not by new forms of colonialism, and to be ready to provide the vaccine funds needed for the poorest countries as well”.
Alongside this global mobilisation, a health campaign is also being launched in the Amazon region of Pará (Brazil) to support the “Pope Francis Hospital Boat” project. Operating since 2019, this project seeks to provide the care needed by the “ribeirinhos”, the populations who live along the River Amazon, far away from any healthcare centres.
Edson Galego, a Brazilian nurse who lives at Obidos in the lower Amazon and works directly on the project said: “Since September 2019, the Pope Francis Hospital Boat has reached more 700,000 inhabitants in the Amazon region, thanks to the commitment of many volunteers and economic aid, and this is still not enough. At the moment vaccines are urgently needed, but the state is seeing mainly to those who live in urban centres. The situation has now become worse: it is the heavy rain season; the water level rises and because of floods the communities cannot go fishing or sail to cities where they can buy food, medicines and other basic needs. We believe that only a worldwide network can sustain us in our goal of universal brotherhood and embrace together this part of humanity, that suffers and is excluded”.
Sr. Alessandra Smerilli (Undersecretary of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development and coordinator of the Economic Task Force of the Vatican Covid-19 Commission) highlighted the aspect of justice. She said: “This is not a matter of being charitable and giving crumbs to those who are worse off than us. It is a question of being indebited and just towards the poorer ones. As Pope Francis has reminded us, we will be saved only if we are all together, which means that we will not be saved until all of us, especially the most vulnerable, the poor and the forgotten, are taken care of. I think that the temporary suspension of patents and the lowering of prices show that this project is moving in the right direction. Then, there is also the question of distribution of technologies: we should be able to study all vaccines, included those that are not produced in the western world. This is quite difficult for some populations. Let’s strive for vaccines that can be easily produced and transported everywhere”.
Yassine Lafram, President of the Union of Islamic Communities in Italy (UCOII), emphasised the indispensable element of co-responsibility on the part of individuals and States with regards to the current worldwide pandemic and its consequences: “We are convinced that we will all be able to start afresh if responsibility is shared. We are all connected and we will be at risk if whole populations are vaccinated, while only one per cent of the poor populations will be able to get the vaccine. We hope that other vaccination campaigns, especially for the poorest populations, will be launched”.
Gianfranco Cattai, coordinator of Retinopera, broadened the horizon when he spoke about the need of offering more just healthcare solutions to poverty-stricken populations. “This is a very concrete campaign and I hope it will trigger off further developments: I am referring to the possibility of locally produced essential medicines in poor countries”.
Noteworthy were the words of Vinu Aram, director of the Shanti Ashram (India), who argued that in the idea of a vaccine for all there is a very important ethical element. “It is not enough to take care of oneself. Both Pope Francis and Mahatma Gandhi invite us to practise solidarity. It is the first time in the world when scientists have collaborated to produce vaccines. I support this vaccine-for-all campaign, and we make this appeal not only for Indians, Americans or Italians, but for everyone, so that the global family can dream and live true solidarity.”
Stefano Comazzi, president of the NGO Action for a United World (AMU) spoke about the project “Prevention, vaccine and care for “ribeirinhos” – Pope Francis Hospital Boat”. This project will be managed by AMU together with the Associação Lar São Francisco de Assis na Providencia de Deus. When sharing details about the health, social and economic support to be given, Comazzi said: “Medical care will take place within the existing framework of the healthcare programme for hospital boats, providing triage, diagnostics and specialised care when necessary. For prevention and preventive treatment against disease we intend to work with the local leaders to provide guidance and raise awareness on hygiene, to establish social distancing and to distribute protection and hygiene packs. The estimated cost of each pack is €15. The aid programme for the most vulnerable families includes the distribution of food packages and personal hygiene and disinfection items. The average cost of each unit is estimated to be €17”.
At the end he highlighted an element that underlines the uniqueness of this project: reciprocity. He explained: “We, as AMU, attach great importance to this element, so that no one feels like a passive beneficiary, but bonds of fraternity are created between the communities who donate and those who receive. In fact, the communities visited by the “Pope Francis Hospital Boat” are used to providing voluntary services to support and contribute to these missions”.