By Chancy Namadzunda:
Catholic Bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM) have endorsed Covid-19 vaccination program launched by President Lazarus Chakwera on Thursday.
A statement signed by ECM President and Archbishop of Blantyre Reverend Thomas Msusa, Vice-President and Bishop of Karonga Reverend Martin Mtumbuka and all the Bishops in the country commended the government for its efforts in ensuring that vulnerable Malawians have access to COVID-19 vaccines.
The Church’s stand, according to the statement, was arrived at having consulted health experts, received guidance from the Decree of the President of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State No. 398 (issued on 8th February 2021 on the subject of health emergencies) and having listened to the government that it shall do its best to ensure that all eligible people in Malawi access the COVID-19 vaccine.
“We strongly encourage all Catholics and people of goodwill that it is morally appropriate to receive the COVID-19 vaccine that Malawi has received. We are aware of the fears and mixed feelings that some people might have towards COVID- 19 vaccine especially on safety and effectiveness of the vaccine that the Government of Malawi has received. We note such sentiments with care and wish to remind all people that the Church has always shared the government’s concern for the health of people.
“In protecting the health of people the Church will always advocate a means that is neither sanctioning or punitive in nature but which strikes a balance between protecting collective health and individual freedom of choice, without being oppressive to anyone.
“To encourage people to go for vaccination, we call upon the government through the relevant offices to employ all necessary measures needed to uphold the genuineness, safety and effectiveness of the vaccine. This should include massive intensive civic education, sensitization because most of the fears and myths among the people especially in the rural areas have come about due to lack of correct information,” reads part of the statement.
The Church further said government should also make extra effort to acquire more vaccine so that many people should have the chance of receiving it than it is now.
“We further implore the Government to put in place necessary measures to address the different concerns that people might have concerning the vaccine while at the same time continuing to put in place all the necessary measures to combat the spread of Covid-19, the treatment of those infected and the protection of the population from further spread.
“We advise all Catholics and people of goodwill that together with other means to stop or even prevent the COVID-19 pandemic, the common good calls for vaccination, primarily to protect the weakest and most vulnerable.
“As such, we strongly believe that receiving the available COVID-19 vaccine must be understood as an act of charity towards other community members and considered as an act of love of our neighbour and part of our moral responsibility for the common good.
“We are aware that people are not obliged to take the vaccine as it is to be done on voluntary basis and at the discretion of an individual. However, as guided by the Decree, mentioned above, we reiterate that those who would refuse the vaccine should “do their utmost to avoid, by other prophylactic means and appropriate behaviour, becoming vehicles for the transmission of the infectious agent,” reads the statement in part.