When the world thinks of the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines, the faces that come to mind are those of doctors, nurses, health ministers, and politicians. But also essential in the battle to end the pandemic are an invisible population of faith leaders, including pastors, priests, and imams, who are active in countries and communities around the globe. Faith plays a role in the lives and behaviours of 84% of the world’s population. As trusted community members with vital social, access and spiritual capital, faith leaders can exercise considerable positive influence in many communities during the current crisis. As a Christian organisation, we have spent decades building meaningful, trusted relationships with faith leaders who have served on the frontline of responses to HIV and AIDS, Ebola, and Zika. Through this, we have seen mounting evidence of faith leaders’ critical role in addressing each health crisis we have fought together.
As part of our current COVID-19 Response, World Vision is partnering with more than 124,000 faith leaders in care and prevention campaigns. In an unprecedented era of misinformation, disinformation, conspiracies, and confusion, these faith leaders play a pivotal role in leveraging their platforms to share accurate, fact-based information about COVID-19. They are well-positioned and trusted in their communities, enabling them to identify challenges, design solutions, and promote ways of overcoming barriers that keep children and young people and their communities from accessing vital health care. New Barrier Analysis studies conducted by World Vision in six countries prove that communities really do trust what their faith leaders say when it comes to vaccines.
This report details the unique and essential role of faith leaders in the COVID-19 Response before outlining the role they can play in the support of COVID-19 vaccine programmes. There is no time to waste. Vaccines have given us a possible way out of this pandemic, but we are only halfway there. Without widespread uptake of vaccines around the globe, we will not escape the pandemic or its devastating consequences. We must respond to the dramatic impact that COVID-19 is having on the world’s most vulnerable children and young people, who are facing increased violence, disruption to their education, and devastated economies, driving child labour and child marriage. Until the world is vaccinated, the futures and freedoms of children and young people, the vulnerable, and our own families hang in the balance. Against this backdrop, faith leaders have a critical role to play in our collective goal to end the pandemic.