Manila (Agenzia Fides) - In a joint Pastoral Letter, the Philippine bishops call on the country's government to ensure that the anti-Covid-19 vaccination is equally available to all citizens, but also to choose a vaccine made according to an ethical criterion. "After nearly a year of the pandemic - both in terms of lives lost and the devastated economic impact – we must thank God because scientists have developed vaccines to immunize people against Covid".
In the document sent to Agenzia Fides, signed by Archbishop Ricardo L. Baccay of Tuguegarao, President of the Bioethics Office within the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), the Bishops affirm their support for the government's efforts in the vaccination campaign and thank the private organizations that have volunteered to support the manufacture and procurement of the vaccine. "We urge our government and private organizations that have helped fund vaccine procurement to commit to a vaccine distribution plan that prioritizes doctors who are on the front lines and those who are most at risk. It would be a tragedy if young and healthy employees at low risk companies were vaccinated before our doctors, nurses and other health care workers who are on the front lines or before senior citizens at higher risk of the disease", the Pastoral Letter said. The bishops, meanwhile, appreciate the government's efforts to ensure access to the vaccination program, especially for the poor: "The poor are loved by the Lord. They should be given special protection because their poverty makes them vulnerable to infection and serious illness. The vaccination campaign can only end the pandemic in our country if enough Filipino citizens are vaccinated. We therefore urge the whole population to be ready to be vaccinated as soon as the vaccines are available". "We recognize that every person should be free to choose whether or not to vaccinate according to their conscience", said the prelates, "but everyone should be aware of their obligation to protect themselves and others from infection and to protect themselves against the further spread of the virus". The bishops also draw attention to an ethical issue: "We learned that some of the vaccines against Covid-19 were made from cells taken from the remains of an aborted fetus that was killed in 1973. It must be repeated: deliberate abortion even if it is done in order to obtain necessary material for vaccines, it is morally unacceptable. The end does not justify the means; otherwise, the most inhuman and terrible acts could be justified with supposedly useful ends". For this reason, the Bishops are calling on the government to give priority to vaccines that have been developed without the use of embryonic cells. In conclusion, the Bishops thanked scientists who have made their experience available for the welfare of the people and their protection against disease: "We know that the study and the work that precedes the manufacture of a vaccine are arduous" and we appreciate the work of Healthcare workers and all "who have given their service with dedication in these terrible months that have passed". The Philippines has purchased 25 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Chinese company Sinovac Biotech. As reported by the authorities, the first 50,000 doses are expected to be available in February, kicking off the massive national vaccination campaign. (SD-PA) (Agenzia Fides, 15/1/2021)