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Catholic coalition stresses importance of COVID-19 vaccine for all

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WASHINGTON — On World Health Day April 7, a new group of 31 U.S. Catholic organizations encouraged people to get the COVID-19 vaccine as an act of charity and solidarity with others.

The group also emphasized the need for vaccine equity in the United States and around the world.

"This is a clarion call for us to act," said Mercy Sister Mary Haddad, president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association, noting the significance of announcing formation of the group on World Health Day and stressing the role faith-based providers can play as the world makes initial steps to recover from the global pandemic.

She said the pandemic has shown us that "we are so interconnected as a global community; we can't just act in isolation."

Sister Haddad said this new coalition represents all social ministries of the church coming together and is a chance to elevate the work they do and to show how they serve everyone, not just the Catholic population.

The coalition includes the CHA, Catholic Charities USA, Catholic Relief Services and Jesuit Refugee Service along with religious orders and groups representing church ministries in education, chaplaincy, advocacy and mission work.

It aims to spread the word about the importance of the COVID-19 vaccine through each group's social media platforms and also on the coalition's website: www.catholiccares.com, which has resources from Catholic social teaching, words of Pope Francis and statements from the U.S. Catholic bishops about the moral responsibility to get vaccinated.

The group also is emphasizing the need to make sure the vaccine gets to everyone, particularly communities of color, those in rural areas and places with limited vaccine availability. It also is stressing the urgency of vaccine access in developing countries and among refugees and displaced persons.

Sean Callahan, president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, said the pandemic and its "shadow pandemics of hunger and poverty are ravishing many countries around the world" and said the most vulnerable "deserve the same access to life saving vaccines that we have."

He also said the common good "requires that we make vaccine access equitable globally since we can only defeat this virus here if we defeat it everywhere."

CRS is the U.S. bishops' overseas relief and development agency.

Dominican Sister Donna Markham, president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA, noted the early Christians demonstrated a "profound sense of community and concern for those in need," which are just as important today "especially during this challenging moment as we seek to emerge from the pandemic."

"Each of us plays a part by getting vaccinated and practicing safety measures for the good of all, and by doing everything we can to ensure that those who are most in need have access to the vaccine and protective equipment," she said.

On March 1 the Arlington diocese published a frequently asked questions document to advise the faithful regarding COVID-19 vaccinations. It notes, "a Catholic may in good conscience receive one of the currently available vaccines."

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021