European Churches issue appeal for COVID-19 vaccination and prevention
By Lisa Zengarini
As the Omicron variant of COVID-19 spreads to more countries, European Churches are strongly encouraging everyone to observe necessary sanitary measures and get vaccinated. The call was made by Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich SJ, President of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE), and Reverend Christian Krieger, President of the Conference of European Churches (CEC) in a joint appeal issued on Tuesday.
Saving human lives
Noting the new rise of COVID-19 infections is also related to low vaccination rates, COMECE and CEC reiterate, along with experts and scientists, that vaccination is currently the most effective way to counter the pandemic and save human lives. “Vaccination offers protection not only to ourselves but also to our brothers and sisters, particularly the more fragile among us. It is thus an act of love and care and also one of responsibility and social justice”, the statement reads.
European Bishops recognize that the decision to get vaccinated “may not be easy and reasons to be hesitant may be manifold”. This is why they encourage citizens “to clarify their concerns and take a well-informed decision after having sought professional advice from competent authorities and experts”.
Fake-news on vaccination
At the same time, they lament the spread of “false information and unfounded claims with regard to vaccination, “instrumentalizing the pandemic by causing fear and polarization at a time when our societies need cohesion, unity and solidarity”. They therefore strongly appeal to all who bear responsibility in society to counter any attempts of disinformation and invite all societal actors to raise awareness on the need for responsible actions to protect themselves and others, “particularly those who cannot be vaccinated for health or other reasons”.
Ensuring universal access to vaccination
They also renew their call to the European Union and its Member States to fulfill their vaccine-sharing pledges and step up global efforts towards ensuring an equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for all, including in regions with weaker health systems.
“God sent His son to earth to express His love and care for us. This good news remains very relevant today. Let us give living witness to it, let us show responsibility and care”, the appeal concludes.
Vaccination rate and hospitalization
The latest Coronavirus wave sparked by the Delta variant, and more recently by the new Omicron variant, has hit European countries with different intensity and speed which seem to be related to the vaccination rate, although vaccination does not prevent transmission. Comparative data between European countries seem to show that the higher the vaccination rate, the lower the incidence in hospitals and the death rate.
Countries with roughly 50% of the population vaccinated, have a higher number of hospitalizations than countries with greater coverage. Indeed, in recent months, the number of hospitalizations has been an even more important indicator, given that the vaccines are preventing serious illness and infections alone do not reflect the genuine magnitude of the new wave.
Vaccines are not enough
However, vaccination alone is not enough to explain the different incidence of the pandemic. Changes in seasonal behaviour related to the arrival of the cold weather, as well as the gradual relaxation of restrictions in many countries have also played an important role. Most importantly, the effectiveness of the vaccine is reduced with time. This is why many countries are accelerating the third dose campaign. Also many governments are considering making vaccination compulsory. Austria has already done so, with the support of the bishops.