Covid-19: new perspectives on the causes, actions and consequences

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Below is a summary of the final declaration published by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences following the virtual meeting on November 4 and 5, devoted to the implications of the pandemic for science and health policy.

VATICAN NEWS

The Pontifical Academy of Sciences (PAS) expresses concern that COVID-19 is having a negative impact, especially on the poor, and further increasing inequalities between countries and between generations. The SAP and its partners have identified a few thematic areas for science and health policies that can serve everyone. Understanding the sources and pathophysiological mechanisms of the disease is essential. The continued potential presence of SARS-CoV-2 – and that of future new infectious diseases – must be taken into account. New scientific knowledge in the fields of vaccine development and treatments is impressive and promising, and new experiences and approaches in terms of health policy actions must be shared freely.

Equitable access to vaccines must be guaranteed, as the lack of vaccines in poor countries has created a morally untenable injustice. In addition, low vaccination coverage increases the risk of the emergence of new variants. Vaccine inequity and the vaccine nationalism of rich countries must end, and the COVAX program – the world’s largest vaccine-related initiative – must receive much more support. Innovations in diagnostics, tests and therapies are also promising, but need to be made available worldwide.

Optimal management of pandemics in public health systems must remain a priority at national and international level. The key role of international cooperation within the framework of WHO must be strengthened. Healthcare systems are essential in managing COVID-19, and the effects on other sectors such as food, education and public health must be taken into account. The long-term effects of COVID-19 (Long COVID) are of major concern and require intensive research as well as targeted public health actions. The effects of infection on children and the psychological consequences of social isolation on the cognitive development of young people need to be considered in related research.

Science has already saved many during the pandemic. The quality of science must be protected from the stress of COVID-19. Tackling disinformation and conspiracies about pandemics and vaccines is an important task for science, education, politics, (social) media and religious communities. Human dignity should be the starting point for reflections on the scientific aspects of the pandemic, and the central point to guide actions. Inclusive health policies must be based on truth, justice, solidarity and brotherhood, according to Pope Francis encyclical Fratelli Tutti.


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