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Bishop Martin Seeley fears some countries will go without much-needed doses of Covid vaccine




When resources are scarce, or seem scarce, it seems we are capable of behaving badly. It’s a sort of primitive instinct based in fear – fear that something will run out and then the fear that we will not be able to protect our families and ourselves.

We saw this at the start of each ‘lockdown’, and I imagine we all remember well the stockpiling of toilet rolls and bags of flour at the start of the first one.

Home baking had taken off in my household as in so many others, and I spent a while searching for flour. And when I finally found some, I may have bought just a couple more bags than I needed, and so made the problem that bit worse.

Bishop Martin Seeley
Bishop Martin Seeley

We reason with ourselves, and perhaps with others, why we need to behave like this, but it is our primitive instincts rooted in fear that cloud our reason. And all the while the flour and toilet roll companies are doing their best to assure us there is enough.

So we know how this works. And now we are seeing it on a global and shocking scale.

Nothing as harmless as a few extra loo rolls. Now it is countries hoarding hundreds of millions of vaccination doses.

It is extraordinary to see the behaviour we see in individuals played out on this global scale, and in such a deadly way.

Hoarding vaccines not just endangers the recovery of nations from the devastation of this pandemic, but threatens the global recovery.

‘We are all in this together’ has been a constant refrain, but we have already seen with the impact of the virus on different ethnic groups, on the elderly, and on the poor in this country, that is not as true as we want to believe. We are all in this together, but some nations are going to make sure that they have far more vaccine doses than they could possibly need, just in case.

Just in case of what? We have already seen how the virus spreads regardless of borders, and that it is not going to go away, so our common sense commitment should be to ensure that every nation has enough. But greed born of fear has stepped in, and of course it is the greed of the rich.

I understand that the UK has ordered something like 350 million doses, for a population of 67 million, which means that after every man, woman and child has had two shots there will still be 200 million spare.

Canada has purchased six times the total number of its population, and the US five times theirs, and one report suggests that Japan, Australia and New Zealand have ordered more than the total population of the whole of Latin America, so three times what they need.

This is greed on a global scale, and meanwhile the poorer countries go without, the countries that desperately need vaccines as much as anyone else.

Part of the world seems to have judged that their lives are so much more important than the lives of people in other parts that they will imperil those lives – and there is absolutely no need to.

This is born of fear, not love and care for our neighbour, just like our hoarding of loo rolls, but this time on a lethal scale.

The sadness is that there have been glimpses that we have seen ourselves as a more united world, united in the suffering, helping others in our communities and in our fight against the mutating virus.

At the very least, our country and other wealthy countries have to distribute the vaccines they will not use to those who are without. And then we have to ask once again, what will it ever take, as the Bible says, for ‘justice to roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream’?

- Bishop Martin Seeley is the Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich and is writing a weekly article for readers while church services are disrupted by the pandemic

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