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Access to Covid Vaccines Offered to All General Conference Delegates

By Keith Boyette

January 7, 2022

In partnership with other organizations, the Wesleyan Covenant Association has organized an effort to ensure General Conference delegates from Africa, Europe, Eurasia, and the Philippines are fully vaccinated against the Covid virus. Vaccinations will make it possible for them to attend The United Methodist Church’s General Conference scheduled for late August through early September 2022.

General Conference delegates seeking entry into the U.S. will have to demonstrate they have been fully vaccinated with a World Health Organization (WHO) approved vaccine. Such vaccines are now available free of charge to all delegates. Many delegates in Africa, Europe, Eurasia, the Philippines, and the U.S. have already been fully vaccinated.

The barrier for those still unvaccinated delegates is not the availability of vaccines, but their ability to travel to cities where they can receive free immunizations. For example, in the Congo Central Conference, where approximately 150 delegates reside, free immunizations are only available in a limited number of major cities. Many delegates reside in rural areas requiring multi-day trips to reach the clinics. Often this requires several days of travel on the ground followed by travel by air on flights that operate once a week just to reach cities where vaccines are available. And since two doses are required for most WHO-approved vaccines, delegates must remain near the clinics for up to 18 days in order to receive both doses. Not only must the delegates incur the cost of travel by ground and air; they must also have resources for lodging and food while awaiting administration of their second dose. Such costs are beyond many delegates ability to pay.

The WCA first sought to address this issue by determining whether the UM Church planned to assist General Conference delegates with logistical support for full vaccination. Informed that there was no plan, the WCA reached out to other advocacy groups across the theological spectrum to invite their participation in ensuring access to vaccines for delegates. To date, the Confessing Movement, Good News, and IRD/UMAction have agreed to support the initiative.

Total funding to ensure all delegates who desire to be vaccinated have access to immunization is estimated to be $135,000. Some resources have already been provided to leaders in the annual conferences within the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, and Zambia. The initiative has already allowed delegates in some of these countries to begin the process of being fully vaccinated.

These resources are being made available to all delegates in need without regard to where they might stand on any legislation pending before General Conference. Delegates who continue to face logistical barriers, and who were previously unaware of this initiative are invited to email the WCA with information about their costs for traveling to an immunization clinic. Funds will be disbursed accordingly.

Vaccines are available and accessible for delegates in the United States, Europe, Eurasia, the Philippines, and in many countries on the continent of Africa. However, where vaccines are available but not accessible, providing access is a matter of justice to ensure all delegates can participate – in person – at the 2022 General Conference.

The Commission on General Conference plans to meet in the first quarter of 2022 to determine whether to continue with its plans to hold the conference this year, postpone it again, or cancel it and turn its attention to preparing for the 2024 General Conference.

The Commission has listed a number of criteria that will guide its decision. Availability and access to Covid vaccines was one critical item on its list.

The initiative sponsored by the WCA and others seeks to ensure vaccines are available and accessible to all General Conference delegates. And in those cases where delegates choose not to be vaccinated, the program will provide resources allowing elected alternates to be vaccinated instead.

The WCA invites its many members and friends to support this initiative. Financial contributions should be designated for “Vaccinations.” Gifts made to the program will be used solely for that purpose until all vaccine-related costs are paid. Thereafter, funds will be used to assist delegates in obtaining and participating in interviews for visas as well as other General Conference-related expenses. You can make your contribution online by selecting “Vaccinations” as your designation. You may also mail a check made payable to the Wesleyan Covenant Association at P. O. Box 667, Reynoldsburg, OH 43068. Please note on your check’s memo line that your gift is for “Vaccinations.”

Thank you in advance for ensuring all delegates have access to vaccines so their voices can be heard alongside all others at the 2022 General Conference.

The Rev. Keith Boyette is president of the Wesleyan Covenant Association and chair of the Transitional Leadership Council of the Global Methodist Church (in formation). He is an elder in the Virginia Conference of The United Methodist Church.

East Ohio WCA is not affiliated with the East Ohio UNITED METHODIST CHURCH.

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