By Philip Pullella
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The charity arm of the Vatican and Roman Catholic Church urged the United Nations on Friday to hold a Security Council meeting to designate the equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines as a global security issue.
An appeal by two senior Vatican cardinals and the secretary-general of Caritas Internationalis (CI) said rich nations had a moral obligation to see that vaccines reach the poor, refugees and minorities.
"(We) call for a Security Council meeting to address the issue of access to the vaccines as a global security problem with firm political decisions based on multilateralism," the appeal text said.
"This pandemic is a global human security problem that threatens the whole human family. Addressing the vaccines issue from the perspective of a narrow national strategy might lead to a moral failure in meeting the needs of the most vulnerable across the globe," the appeal said.
It was signed by Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, who is head of the Vatican's worldwide missionary arm and also CI president, Cardinal Peter Turkson, head of the Vatican's Integral Human Development department, and CI Secretary General Aloysius John.
The appeal further summoned affluent nations to remit the debt of the poorest nations so that money could be diverted to improving national health systems.
It said holders of vaccine patents should set up production hubs in Africa, Asia and Latin America to speed up delivery to the poorest populations.
Rich nations that look after only their own good could face another crisis in the future if poorer nations are neglected now and the pandemic gets out of hand in the global south, it said.
On Wednesday, the COVAX vaccine-sharing facility, which includes two U.N. agencies, said it had allocated at least 330 million doses of vaccines for poorer countries.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Mark Heinrich)