The church made its position through a statement issued Thursday by the Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM).
The Catholic bishops in this statement acknowledge that there are fears among many Malawians on the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine but say through interactions and wide consultations they have had with medical experts they are convinced that the vaccine is safe hence.
Reads part of the statement “We are aware of the fears and mixed feelings that some people might have towards COVID-19 vaccine especially on safety and effectiveness of the vaccine that the Government of Malawi has received. We note such sentiments with care and wish to remind all people that the Church has always shared the government’s concern for the health of people.
In protecting the health of people, the Church will always advocate a means that is neither sanctioning nor punitive in nature but which strikes a balance between protecting collective health and individual freedom of choice, without being oppressive to anyone.”
The bishops have therefore encouraged people to get vaccinated as doing so would help saving lives.
“We strongly believe that receiving the available COVID-19 vaccine must be understood as an act of charity towards other community members and considered as an act of love of our neighbour and part of our moral responsibility for the common good.”
The vaccination exercise was launched Thursday with President Lazarus Chakwera and his Vice Saulos Chilima being the first to get the jabs of the controversial Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.
Representatives of sectors of the society including ECM Chairperson Archbishop Thomas Luke Msusa, former President Joyce Banda, Malawi Defence Force Commander among others.
The Catholic Church has however called upon government to intensify its awareness programmes on the vaccine observing that the fears people have to emanate from lack of information.
The bishops also challenge government and relevant stakeholders to ensure the vaccination exercise is done under strict Covid-19 preventive measure to combat the spread of the virus.
On the number of vaccine doses available, the bishops say government should also make extra efforts to acquire more doses to allow more people to access it.
On March 5, Malawi received 360, 000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through COVAX facility with 360,000 people are expected to be vaccinated in the vaccination exercise first phase. They including front health workers, security officers, teachers, journalists, those above years and people with underlying health conditions.