A health worker holds an ampoule of the CoronaVac vaccine, in Porto Alegre, Brazil, 2021.


Sister Agatha O. Chikelue, executive director of the Cardinal Onaiyekan Foundation for Peace, said that if we really want our neighbors to stay healthy, we should take the vaccine. As people of faith, we believe in collective responsibility,” she said. We believe that we are responsible for each other. We believe that we are each others keeper.”

Judge Mohammad Abou Zeid, head of the Family Court of Sidon and also imam and preacher at Aisha Mosque in Sidon, Lebanon, spoke of the lack of trust between society and the government. Maybe being transparent, showing real numbers, showing real evidence, being transparent to the citizens, maybe these are good actions that governments could do,” he said.

Dr Manoj Kurian, coordinator of the World Council of Churches Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance, reflected on building trust in vaccines, touching upon what helps strengthen trust and what tears it down.

Faith communities, he said, excel at carrying value-based messages which bring hearts, hands and minds together.”

Thinking about what erodes trust in vaccines, Kurian cited superstitious and harmful theologies,” and also underscored how vaccine inequity undermines trust.

While 74% of the administered COVID-19 vaccines worldwide have been given in high, upper and middle-income countries, only 0.7% of doses have been administered in low-income countries,” he said. The delay in the rollout is not only a moral failure, but also devastating public health, leading to the evolution of mutations, which may substantially reduce the usefulness of current vaccines.”

He also emphasized that we are part of an interconnected whole—one body—and we need to see the presence of the divine in the other, however different or distant they may be.

To build trust we have to overcome injustice and inequality with love, compassion and empathy,” he said.

Rabbi Gustavo Kraselnik, spiritual leader of the Congregation KolShearith Israel in Panama, and executive director of the Panamanian Jewish Congress, moderated the discussion. Can you tell us about some of the ways you have worked to build trust in the COVID vaccines in recent months?” he asked, among other questions.

He also invited panelists to tell me what lesson you have learned from this process that you could share with others.”

Priestess Beatriz Schulthess, president of the Indigenous Peoples Ancestral Spiritual Council, said that, as COVID numbers continue to rise in some communities, its vital to convince people to get the vaccine. The best way to convince people has always been, at least for me, person-to-person conversation,” she said.

She also expressed concerns about tourists ignoring safety measures. In particular, tourists and foreigners, they just come and dont respect, and get very angry when restaurants and shops ask them to respect the safety measures,” she said.

The webinar was part of a conference, Strengthening national responses to health emergencies: WHO, Religious Leaders, Faith-based Organizations, Faith Communities and National Governments,” that is being co-organised by WHO and Religions for Peace.