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Don't politicize pandemic, say Malaysian bishops

Prelates stress that accessibility to Covid-19 vaccines should not only be for the privileged

UCA News reporter

UCA News reporter

Published: February 08, 2021 05:31 AM GMT

Updated: February 09, 2021 10:24 AM GMT

Don't politicize pandemic, say Malaysian bishops

Archbishop Julian Leow, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia. (Photo: Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur)

The Catholic Church in Malaysia is asking the country’s leaders to not exploit the Covid-19 pandemic. Bishops say the pandemic should not be politicized and any form of corruption in the procurement and distribution of vaccines must be avoided.

“The pandemic cannot be used to politicize or divide Malaysians. We call on our leaders to put aside any differences in order to steer the country and help rebuild our lives and that of the nation. The lives of the rakyat [people] must be at the forefront in overcoming this turbulent period,” said the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia (CBCM) in a Feb. 4 pastoral letter addressed to “People of God”.

The letter also talked about the need for transparency.

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“The citizens have a right to information with regard to transparent procurement and equitable distribution. It is morally inadmissible to aggravate human suffering with any form of corruption,” the bishops wrote.

“Great care should be taken to ensure that no individual or any organization exploits the situation for any form of financial gain.”

The CBCM also said that public safety must be given due consideration by the regulatory bodies when selecting the right vaccines. “A standard must be set and this standard must not be loosely compromised.”

The bishops also stressed the right of the people to information. Apart from the right to be informed of procurement and distribution details, Malaysians ought to also have the right to know details about the vaccines.

“The general population has a right to proper and accurate information — not only scientific facts but also the ethical facts so that persons of faith may have the clarity of mind to make informed decisions,” the letter stated.

“The accessibility to the vaccine should not be only for the privileged. Even though vaccinations may begin with those who have greater needs, (e.g. front liners, elderly, sick, etc.), the government must ensure that everyone should have equitable access to the vaccine, especially the vulnerable and those in the margins of society who may not be able to afford the vaccines.”

The pastoral letter was signed by Archbishop Julian Leow Beng Kim of Kuala Lumpur, Bishop Sebastian Francis of Penang, Bishop Bernard Paul of Melaka-Johor, Archbishop John Wong of Kota Kinabalu, Bishop Cornelius Piong of Keningau, Bishop Julius Gitom of Sandakan, Archbishop Simon Poh of Kuching, Bishop Richard Ng of Miri and Bishop Joseph Hii of Sibu.

Meanwhile, Malaysian bishops say it is acceptable for local Catholics to receive Covid-19 vaccinations because of the seriousness of the pandemic in the country. However, they say that this decision does not “constitute formal cooperation with abortion.”

The bishops said the onus was on scientists, researchers and decision-makers to make available ethically obtained cell-lines and other products.

“They have a higher degree of responsibility in this context. Even though their connection to the original wrongdoing may somewhat be distant, as they are the ones actually using the cell-lines for all kinds of research (not just vaccines), they are a key part of the system that could perpetuate demand for such products,” they said in a Feb. 4 pastoral letter.

“The Church teaches that those in such positions have a duty to refuse the use of such material in their work and research, as a witness to the value of life. Their position is very different from end-users in the general population, who are only receiving the final vaccine in specific circumstances and are not in a position of responsibility to choose what biological material to use for research and production.”

This article was first published here on Journey With Us-Asia, a website about the Catholic community in Malaysia.

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