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WCC joins UNICEF in World Immunization Week

As World Immunization Week is observed from 24-30 April with the theme “Long Life for All,” the World Council of Churches (WCC) and its vaccine champions continue to support sharing accurate information about vaccines as well as access to vaccines across the globe.

By Lisa Zengarini

The last week of April marks World Immunization Week, a yearly event bringing together the World Health Organisation (WHO), UNICEF and other organizations, including Churches, to reiterate the importance of vaccines against diseases and spur greater engagement around immunization globally.

“Long Life for All” 

This year’s week is focused on the theme “Long Life for All” which is intended to convey the historical significance the development of vaccines has had on the world and their importance to a long and healthy life.

1.1 billion children  immunized in 20 years

For the past two decades, more than 1.1 billion children have been immunized, saving 4-5 million lives each year and helping to reduce child deaths by half. Vaccines for common diseases like measles, diarrheal diseases and pneumonia are enabling more children around the world to live longer and more fulfilling lives. Vaccines have also been crucial against the new coronavirus , though injustice and inequity remain in their distribution and have yet to benefit those most in need.

The impact of the COVID-19 on vaccine coverage

At the same time, COVID-19 has impacted negatively on immunization coverage for other diseases. Indeed, the pandemic has contributed to about 23 million children missing out on basic vaccines in 2020 alone.

Global vaccine coverage also continues  to be hampered by conflicts and climate crisis-induced events which disrupt livelihoods, health services, and infrastructure.

WCC commitment to immunization

Among the many organizations involved in World Immunization Week is the World Council of Churches (WCC) and its member Churches who have long been engaged in raising awareness on the benefits of immunization, in supporting governments to implement high-quality immunization programmes and in advocating for universal access to vaccinations. 

As the Week kicked off on 24 April, nine Church leaders from different continents joined a team of 300 specially assigned Vaccine Champions, mobilized by UNICEF to support sharing accurate information about vaccines as well as access to vaccines across the globe. 

“We must exercise the considerable influence and trust we enjoy as church leaders in a worldwide fellowship, and do everything we can to save lives and ease the burdens on health care workers.”

Challenging misleading information

Among them, Reverend Ioan Sauca, the World Council of Churches acting general secretary, who said the campaign offers an opportunity for faith actors to encourage people to get vaccinated and to counter misleading information, especially on COVID-19 vaccines. 

“As a Christian fellowship it is our duty and moral obligation to publicly challenge rumours and myths and confront them with facts”, he explains.  “We must take up responsibility and advocate for what is right from a medical, ethical and human rights perspective”, Sauca says.

This view is echoed in the reflections shared by the other eight members of the WCC team. “We have a long history of vaccinations saving millions of lives, and as such we should reject the conspiracy theories against scientific evidence and advocate for everyone to get vaccinated against the deadly COVID-19 virus, avoiding nationalistic tendencies which may isolate countries without many resources”, says Rev. Dr Fidon Mwombeki, general secretary of the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC).


According to Archbishop emeritus Dr Anders Wejryd, WCC president for Europe, “vaccination is simply about solidarity”. “Until everyone is safe, no one is safe. Together we can reach that day”, says Jørgen Skov Sørensen, general secretary, of the Conference of European Churches (CEC).

A Christian responsibility

For his part, Jim Winkler, president and general secretary of National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCCCUSA), points out that it is  “our faithful responsibility as followers of Jesus Christ to take the vaccine against COVID-19 so that we can be part of the global effort to overcome the pandemic”.

Dr Mathews George Chunakara, general secretary of the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA), points to the alarming disparities in the access to vaccines across the world, noting that the dearth of adequate vaccines and lack of awareness and trust in vaccination are often hindering successful vaccination drives in Asia.

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26 April 2022, 14:37