The Vatican’s bioethics academy and the World Medical Association called Friday for an all-out effort to combat vaccine hesitancy and correct the “myths and disinformation” that are slowing the fight against the coronavirus.

In a joint statement, the groups said some vaccine reluctance in poorer countries is rooted in historical inequalities and suspicions of Western pharmaceutical companies. But they said “a more pernicious form” of hesitancy is being driven by fake news, myths and disinformation about vaccine safety, including among religious groups and some in the medical community.

They demanded that “all relevant stakeholders exhaust all efforts to … confront vaccine hesitancy by sending a clear message about the safety and necessity of vaccines and counteracting vaccine myths and disinformation.”

From Vatican News: 

The discussion saw the collaboration of the World Medical Association, German Medical Association and Pontifical Academy for Life as they work to promote vaccine equity and confront vaccine hesitancy.

Speaking at the discussion were Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, President of the Pontifical Academy for Life (PAL), Dr. Ramin Parsa-Parsi, Head of Department for International Affairs, “German Medical Association” (GMA), and Professor Dr. Frank Ulrich Montgomery, Chair of Council, “World Medical Association” (WMA) who was present through video connection.

A joint statement by the three organizations noted that “considered one of the greatest achievements of modern medicine, vaccines play a vital role in the prevention of infectious diseases. They have been proven to avoid millions of deaths and protect millions more from getting sick each year. But to unlock the full innovative potential of vaccines, action must be taken to overcome barriers to vaccine equity and to address the root causes of vaccine hesitancy”.

Recognizing the urgency of these issues and the essential role international and cross-sectoral collaborations can play in advancing these causes, the WMA, the PAL, and the GMA have joined forces to demand that all relevant stakeholders exhaust all efforts to “ensure equitable global access to vaccines, which is a key prerequisite for a successful global vaccination campaign, and confront vaccine hesitancy by sending a clear message about the safety and necessity of vaccines and counteracting vaccine myths and disinformation.”

Archbishop Paglia opened his address noting that although “It has now become a kind of mantra that vaccines belong to everyone, “vaccinations also affect the common good and justice”. He went on to quote Pope Francis who said that “if a pharmaceutical can cure a disease, it should be available to everyone, otherwise injustice will result…there is no place for ‘medical marginalization.'”

Archbishop Paglia stressed that there should be no restrictions made based on low-income countries’ limited capacity to buy vaccinations.

“Supporting the universal availability of vaccines means entering into a complex set of problems, which have aspects that are scientific-technological, economic-commercial and geopolitical (e.g., “vaccine nationalism”’)”, he said.

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