The executive committee of the World Council of Churches, meeting by video-conference on 17-20 May 2021, applauds the cooperation and collaboration of the global scientific community that led to unprecedented rapid progress in understanding SARS-CoV-2 and developing reliable diagnostics, therapeutic models and highly effective vaccines. At the same time, we also recognize that similar global cooperation has not yet been demonstrated in the distribution of these scientific advances to all of humankind, which suffers unequally from the continuing burdens of this pandemic.

We call upon all with the power to address the lamentable injustice and inequity revealed by the pandemic — governments, agencies, religious leaders, boards and leaders of corporations with ownership of patents and materials — to exercise leadership and act together urgently to ensure broad, rapid, equitable and affordable distribution of therapeutics and vaccines worldwide, to overcome this failure and to right this wrong.

Since the supply of vaccines remains insufficient to meet the global need, and has been concentrated in countries able to pay a premium to ensure access, we support calls for the temporary waiver of relevant patents and other intellectual property rights, in order to remove a key obstacle to increased manufacturing and supply, especially in countries currently marginalized and excluded from adequate supply of needed vaccines. In addition, we call on all nations with greater supplies of vaccine to share their abundance, especially with lower-income countries, and to lift export restrictions in relation to COVID-19 health products.

We appeal also for the compassionate sharing of technology and know-how, to enable manufacturers in hard-hit countries in the Global South to produce vaccines for their people and others. We urge greater support for and contributions to the WHO COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP) as a key instrument for this purpose, and to the COVAX facility for more equitable distribution of available vaccine supplies.

We recognize that, beyond issues of supply and distribution of vaccines, other factors have intensified the impacts of the pandemic and as yet stand in the way of an exit from this crisis. First among these has been the lamentable failure of some leaders to act in accordance with scientific evidence, leading to devastating consequences for the health and lives of their own people and the further spread of the virus globally. These failures have cost many precious lives, and will result in longer and deeper suffering. We call on all political leaders to act for the health and safety of all those living within their borders, to advance the scientific and medical remedies that will ease the pandemic in their countries and help hasten the end of the crisis globally.

We also acknowledge that vaccine hesitancy, fuelled by conspiracy theories, misinformation and misleading theologies, is a major obstacle in many societies, including within our own churches. We thank God for those religious leaders – including the WCC ‘Vaccine Champions’ – who are leading by example and encouraging members of their congregations and communities to consider vaccination not only as a matter of self-protection but also as an act of care and compassion for the ‘neighbour’, for the whole community and for the future of our young people.

God of life, we pray for those who have died, for those who grieve, and for all those whose lives, livelihoods and prospects have been diminished by the pandemic and its effects. We pray for those who long for hope, truth and love during this time of isolation and uncertainty. Inspire us all with the wisdom and compassion for others that will enable us all – political leaders, religious leaders, and all people of goodwill – together to find the path out from under the dark cloud of this pandemic and into your brighter future.