The World Day of the Sick is celebrated annually on 11 February. An observance introduced by Pope St. John Paul II, it is a day set aside to offer prayers for those suffering from illnesses.
In the present context of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and the kick-off vaccination efforts in several countries, Cardinal Peter Turkson – the Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development – spoke to Vatican News about challenges in providing access to the Covid-19 vaccines and the importance of facilitating vaccine production in developing countries.
Cardinal Turkson observes that many countries do not have the capacity to produce the Covid-19 vaccines and as such, depend on vaccines produced in countries like China, Russia and India – which sometimes comes with doubts about their effectiveness and are not accessible by all.
“The south of the world turns its head towards the north to get the vaccine, neglecting that it could be produced directly here,” Cardinal Turkson said.
He notes that some countries, like Senegal, Ethiopia and South Africa, may have the capacity to produce the Covid-19 vaccines themselves but are hindered by patents that grant exclusive rights to some while precluding others from producing the vaccines in their own countries.
Stressing that the imbalanced situation of vaccine production is “no longer sustainable,” Cardinal Turkson called on developed countries not to restrict others from vaccine production through patents.
He also expressed his wish that the World Trade Organization would consider poorer countries in its decision making.
Document on mental health
Meanwhile, the Vatican’s Covid-19 Commission, requested by Pope Francis and led by Cardinal Turkson, has been tirelessly studying the effects of the pandemic on mental health. The Commission recently released a document on living together in domestic spaces during the time of the health emergency.
Cardinal Turkson explained that it is a “pastoral and guiding” document that aims to give encouragement to those suffering physically from the pandemic and to those who take care of them.
Time to lend a helping hand
The Cardinal went on to encourage all in this period of the health emergency to “lend a hand” to those in need.
“To anyone who is afflicted by Covid, there is a need for a hand – to reach out a hand to support, to help and to lift up anybody,” he said. “For those who have lost loved ones, there is also the need for the hand of consolation and solace to help them in their sorrow.”
“This is the period for lending a hand – lending a hand to anybody who is sorrowing, who has lost anybody, and who is dealing with this pandemic,” Cardinal Turkson said.