The Archbishop of Canterbury and one of the Vatican’s leading cardinals, Peter Turkson, have joined with humanitarian and health leaders to call for an end to “vaccine nationalism” and for more equitable distribution of Covid-19 vaccines.

They warn that global leaders must choose between focusing only on their own peoples - vaccine nationalism – or human solidarity.

In a joint declaration launched on the opening day of the World Health Assembly, the Archbishop, the Most Revd Justin Welby, and the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Peter Maurer, have said that fairer distribution of vaccines is a humanitarian imperative.

The Declaration, which calls for decisive leadership from countries and organizations across the world, states: “There is a choice. The world of the next 10 years can be one of greater justice, abundance and dignity. Or it can be one of conflict, insecurity and poverty. We are at a turning point.”

And it warns that the world is so interdependent that everyone is affected by a lack of vaccines: “No one is safe until everyone is safe”.

The signatories include Cardinal Peter Turkson, Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development; Bishop Ivan M Abrahams, General Secretary of the World Methodist Council;

His Eminence Elder Metropolitan Emmanuel of Chalcedon, Ecumenical Patriarchate; The Reverend Dr Chris Ferguson, General Secretary of the World Communion of Reformed Churches; 

Rabbi David Rosen, Co-President, Religions for Peace, and

Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, The Grand Imam of al-Azhar 

Publication of the declaration is the second time in six weeks that faith leaders have united to speak out about the need for fairer distribution of vaccines. Their calls for justice come as global leaders prepare to meet at the G7 Summit in Cornwall from June 8-9.

In late April, almost 150 religious leaders published a letter asking that a global programme of vaccinations is undertaken for the common good. Archbishop Welby and Cardinal Turkson also signed this letter together with The Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon; Dr Thabo Makgoba, Archbishop of Cape Town; John Davies, Archbishop of Wales; John McDowell, Archbishop of Armagh; Archbishop Linda Nicholls, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, and Mark Strange, Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church.

The letter said: “The access of people to life-saving Covid-19 vaccines cannot be dependent on people’s wealth, status, or nationality. We cannot abdicate our responsibilities to our sisters and brothers by imagining that the market can be left to resolve the crisis or pretend to ourselves that we have no obligation to others in our shared humanity. Every person is precious. We have a moral obligation to reach everyone, in every country.”

“This unprecedented public health crisis calls, above all, for global solidarity, for all people to stand together as brothers and sisters. The same spirit of unity and common purpose that has driven scientists to develop Covid-19 vaccines at breathtaking speed, that drives the care of those tending to the sick, must also inspire the leaders of government, civil society and the private sector to massively ramp up vaccine production so there are sufficient doses for every person in the world to be vaccinated”.