Church of Scotland General Assembly calls for UK government to share Covid vaccines with world's poorest countries

The Church of Scotland’s General Assembly has called on the UK Government to do more to provide Covid-19 vaccines to the world’s poorest countries.

Wednesday, 26th May 2021, 5:02 pm

The move – agreed with no votes against it – came after the Assembly heard a strong plea from Joel Hafvenstein, executive director of the United Mission to Nepal, who said only three or four per cent of the population there had been vaccinated and hundreds were dying every day.

A report by the Kirk’s Faith Impact Forum said wealthy countries sharing vaccines would show moral leadership but might also be enlightened self-interest because “to defeat Covid-19 anywhere, it will need to be defeated everywhere”.

"Countries like the UK which have ordered vastly more doses than they need must share these with those in need around the world as part of international solidarity in seeking to eradicate this virus.”

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Very Rev Dr Susan Brown presented the report of the Faith Impact Forum

Mr Hafvenstein told the Assembly thousands more people in Nepal were testing positive every day and hospitals were struggling to produce enough oxygen.

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“We see from the experience of other countries that this wave will subside but we know it is likely to be followed by new waves for years to come, killing many thousands each time unless Nepal is able to vaccinate most of its population at the earliest possible juncture.

“And at present other countries have cancelled their promises to provide us with vaccines, with perhaps only three or four per cent of our population this far vaccinated.

The Assembly is being held mainly online with only a few present in the hall. Picture: Andrew O'Brien

"I'm speaking in fervent support of this motion that we urge the UK government to do all that it can to ensure Covid-19 vaccines are available around the world and to ask that there be real urgency in our urging and an honest reckoning with the fact the UK government will not easily be persuaded to amend a policy of, as it sees it, successful vaccine nationalism to ensure the UK has a vaccine supply adequate for its whole population for some years to come while other nations don’t have a supply adequate even to their elderly or chronically ill citizens.”

And he urged the Church of Scotland to support the “People’s Vaccine” campaign which calls for 20 per cent of stockpiled vaccines to be released by countries like the UK that have more than they currently need.

“These are obviously not policies western governments will be eager to accept, but with our commitment to global justice and our unwillingness to see the global poor bearing the majority of the burdens of Covid-19 we must make this a priority.”

The Assembly also voted to “deplore” the UK government’s decision to cut overseas aid and restore the commitment to a contribution of 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income.

The Rev David McLachlan of Glasgow: Langside said: “The government has decided slashed by up to 80 per cent many of the aid programmes, including programmes to provide clean water and sanitation in some of the most deprived countries of the world. This is absolutely shocking and scandalous.

“If we as the church are not prepared to lead the charge in standing up for some of the poorest people in the world and to make the case the richest countries have a moral responsibility to be supporting those in the developing world then we are not doing our duty.”

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