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Malawi’s Catholic Bishops Say COVID-19 Vaccine “an act of love of our neighbor”

Archbishop Thomas Msusa of Malawi's Blantyre Archdiocese receiving the COVID-19 vaccine

Catholic Bishops in Malawi have, in a collective message, described COVID-19 vaccine as “an act of love of our neighbor”, endorsing the administration of the batch that arrived in the country March 5.

In their March 11 statement obtained by ACI Africa, members of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM) “strongly encourage all Catholics and people of goodwill that it is morally appropriate to receive the COVID-19 vaccine that Malawi has received.”

“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 neighbor and part of our moral responsibility for the common good,” ECM members say.

In their collective statement titled, “Love does no wrong to a neighbour (Romans 13:10)”, the Bishops add, "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.” 

The Bishops explain that they arrived at the decision to endorse the vaccine after “having consulted health experts, received guidance from the Decree of the President of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State No. 398 (issued on 8 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.”

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In their two-page message that lists those at the helm of Malawi’s eight episcopal sees, the Catholic Bishops say they acknowledge “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,” they say in their March 11 statement.

They add, “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 receive the vaccine, ECM members call on 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,” the Catholic Church leaders further say in their collective statement

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They urge the government to “make extra effort to acquire more vaccines so that many people should have the chance of receiving it than it is now.”

ECM members also call on 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.”

They “commend the Government of Malawi for its efforts in ensuring that vulnerable Malawians have access to COVID-19 vaccines.”

“The Catholic Church in Malawi assures the Government of its continued support in fighting this pandemic,” ECM members say.

They appeal to all Malawians “to continue protecting themselves and others by properly wearing face masks, frequently washing hands with soap and keeping physical distance as per the guidance of COVID-19 prevention measures.”

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“We, the Catholic Bishops pledge to continue praying for the health workers and all frontliners so that the infection trend and death toll continue to decrease until complete eradication,” the Church leaders say and continue, “We further invite all the faithful to continue praying for the same.”

“Holy Mary, Mother of God and Consoler of the Afflicted, Pray for us and our country, Malawi!” ECM members implore in their March 11 collective statement.