During the annual World Immunization Week, an initiative by UNICEF taking place 24-30 April, this year, the World Council of Churches (WCC) intensifies its support by appointing ten influential members from the fellowship to join the 300 Vaccination Champions, that its long-time child-rights partner UNICEF is mobilizing for world immunization. The objective is to exercise influence through social media blogs and other channels to raise awareness about the critical role that immunization through vaccination plays in saving lives.
WCC acting general secretary, Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca, encourages religious leaders in all contexts to lend weight to vaccination programmes: “We must do all we can to protect people from COVID-19 and other potentially fatal diseases. It is our duty to exercise the influence trusted upon us, beyond the pulpits in our local churches. Faith actors have a crucial role to play in increasing the public confidence in vaccines, especially in the current landscape,” he says.
The theme of the Immunization Week; “Vaccines Bring us Closer,” is a part of UNICEF’s broader strategic priority on immunization between 2021 and 2025. The emphasis is on ensuring children across the world receive appropriate routine vaccines, and also educating people specifically about COVID-19 vaccines.
Before COVID-19, nearly 14 million babies were not receiving any vaccines, and many health professionals fear that number has grown even more since the pandemic broke out, as people have become afraid to seek regular medical care.
Through social media messages, educational resource materials, and feature stories, the WCC will join UNICEF, the World Health Organization, and other groups across the world to promote the importance of life-saving routine immunizations, help people access accurate information, and combat myths and misinformation.
“Being part of a fellowship stretching across the globe gives us a presence in rural areas where the church is often the centre of the local community. Being part of everyday life builds trust and makes it easier to reach out to people with messages related to health and healing, which is one of our programmatic areas,” Sauca explains.
In the coming days, the WCC will announce its Vaccination Champions. During the week, WCC member churches will be invited to use the hashtag #VaccinesWork with photos depicting people after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, and how it feels to be vaccinated.
“We look forward to hearing from faith leaders about their experiences with frontline healthcare workers, community health workers, vaccine experts, or teachers who have received the COVID-19 vaccine or are eagerly waiting to receive one,” Sauca concludes.
Since 2015, the WCC has been engaged in a partnership with UNICEF, focusing on child rights issues.