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Eric Rumple: LDS Church should offer billions to distribute vaccines

It would go a long way to help the church’s reputation among people of color.

(Photo courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Church President Russell M. Nelson receives the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021, in Salt Lake City.

The outcome of the pandemic remains uncertain in large part because the rollout of a vaccine across the globe, especially in poorer countries, is going much slower than it is here in Utah and in the U.S. generally. The more widely, and longer, the virus can spread, the greater the risk of mutations that might be able to fully or partially thwart the current vaccines.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help its members, the U.S. and the entire world mitigate these risks.

There is no better example of a rainy day than a global pandemic that has killed millions. What if the church put up a substantial amount of money and then challenged the Biden administration to cover the rest of the cost to vaccinate the world?

Time for a bit of math: The cost to the U.S. for the Pfizer vaccine is $20 per dose. Let’s make a guess that the cost to first obtain and then distribute the vaccine around the world is $50 per dose. Starting with a world population of 7.6 billion, then subtracting the population of countries that won’t accept or can already afford the vaccine (China and the European Union are examples), I come up with a need for vaccine for 5 billion people, or 10 billion doses. That makes a total cost of $500 billion.

The church should offer $50 billion toward the cost of vaccinating the world, and ask Biden to put up the other $450 billion. The church needs to leave no doubt that it is serious and that the offer is made in good faith. Accordingly, the church should unconditionally offer $20 billion to vaccinate as many people as possible in Africa in the event Biden turns down the church’s proposal.

This proposal would obviously disproportionately help people of color around the world. Conveniently, the church is in urgent need to improve its image and reputation among people of color. This is an epic opportunity for redemption. If this proposal came to fruition, the church’s reputation and prestige would be permanently and materially changed for the better. In my opinion, a gesture such as this is exactly what religious institutions are supposed to do. And what a gesture this would be.

If Biden wisely accepted this proposal, the church would need to be prepared to allow Biden to provide the oversight and funding decisions around the world for the entire vaccination program. But with missionaries stationed around the world, the church could, and should, offer to assist Biden in the distribution in any way it can.

Getting the world vaccinated under the current circumstances is years away. Accelerating the process, and speeding a return to normal in world health, world trade and world tourism, would benefit everyone. And, as mentioned, it would diminish the risk of the creation of a catastrophic mutation of the virus.

I make this proposal with total seriousness. This proposal would benefit billions of people and the gesture would still be remembered centuries from now. It could eclipse the prestige and renown of the Marshall Plan.

But even with highly serious proposals, there’s room for a bit of levity. My idea for how this proposal should be known: “The Church’s Challenge.”

| Courtesy Eric Rumple, op-ed mug.

Eric Rumple lives in Sandy. He has an MBA from the University of Chicago and is the author of the novel “Forgive Our Debts.”

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