Pope: ‘Coronavirus vaccine must be for all, not just the wealthy’

24 Sep 2020

By The Record

Sergio Daniotti of the Italian Pharmaceutical Bank, a charitable organisation that provides medicine to the poor, presents Pope Francis with a painting depicting Jesus being crowned with thorns during a 19 September 2020 meeting with members of the organisation in the Paul VI audience hall at the Vatican. Photo: Vatican Media/CNS.

By Junno Arocho Esteves

As countries around the world scramble to find a vaccine for COVID-19, Pope Francis has again called for an ethical distribution of the vaccine to everyone, especially those who are struggling financially.

Addressing members of the Italian Pharmaceutical Bank, a charitable organisation that provides medicine to the poor, the Holy Father said that the economic crisis generated by the pandemic has shed a light on poverty in the world, including “pharmaceutical poverty”.

“I repeat that it would be sad if, in providing the vaccine, priority was given to the wealthiest, or if this vaccine became the property of this or that country and was no longer for everyone. It must be universal, for all,” he said on 19 September.

According to its website, the Pharmaceutical Bank was founded in the year 2000 by a group of young pharmacists who believed the lack of medicine for poor people was an “underestimated” problem.

Adopting a similar approach to food banks, the Pharmaceutical Bank opened locations throughout Italy to provide medicine to the poor. The organisation also opened locations in Spain, Portugal, and Argentina.

In his address, the pontiff reflected on the vulnerable health of those who live in poverty and are unable to obtain medicine or treatment not only because of a lack of money but also because of a “pharmaceutical marginality” that “creates a further gap between nations and between peoples”.

“Too many people, too many children are still dying in the world because they are denied access to a drug that is available in other regions, or to a vaccine,” he expressed.

“We know the danger of the globalisation of indifference.”

Pope Francis proposed “to globalise treatment” and said all people should be given access to life-saving medicine. He also called on pharmacists, pharmaceutical companies and governments to work toward the goal of a “more equitable distribution of medicines”.

“Through their legislative and financial choices, governments are also called upon to build a fairer world in which the poor are not abandoned or, worse still, discarded,” the Holy Father concluded.