LDS Church kicks in $20M toward global COVID vaccination push

Latter-day Saint Charities’ contribution to UNICEF is largest private donation to date and will help bring 2 billion doses to nearly 200 countries by year’s end.

(Photo courtesy of UNICEF and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) The first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines distributed by the COVAX Facility are loaded onto a truck for transport in Accra, Ghana, on Feb. 24, 2021.

Latter-day Saint Charities is donating $20 million toward UNICEF’s global push to procure and distribute 2 billion COVID-19 vaccines in about 196 countries by year’s end.

The grant from the humanitarian arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the United Nations agency reported, is the single biggest contribution so far from a private-sector partner toward the effort.

Through the work of UNICEF’s partners — Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator and the vaccines arm of the ACT Accelerator called the COVAX Facility — the doses will be given to front-line health care and social workers, as well as those who are at high risk or vulnerable to serious complications from the coronavirus.

Some 600,000 of those doses are already on their way to Accra, Ghana, and Ivory Coast.

“COVID-19 is the first truly global crisis we have seen in our lives. No matter where we live, the pandemic affects every person, including children,” Henrietta Fore, UNICEF’s executive director, said a joint news release from the agency and the Utah-based faith. “There has never been a more urgent need to work together.”

(Photo courtesy of UNICEF and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) UNICEF Health Specialist Dr. Felix Osei-Sarpong poses for a photograph at the arrival of the first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines distributed by the COVAX Facility at Kotoka International Airport in Accra, Ghana, on Feb. 24, 2021.

For its part, the church appreciates the partnership as well.

UNICEF’s team and organization “have done so much to care for children and their families and help them meet basic needs and fulfill their potential,” Presiding Bishop Gérald Caussé, who oversees the faith’s financial, real estate, investment and charitable operations, said in the release. “As more adults in vulnerable communities are vaccinated, critical health, nutritional and educational services for children in need will be able to resume. We hold hope in our hearts not only of overcoming the pandemic, but of seeing a brighter future for all children and their families.”

This is not the first time the church has joined hands with the U.N. agency to fight the pandemic. Last year, it gave UNICEF $3 million to help provide water, sanitation and hygiene services to countries struggling to cope with the virus.

Indeed, Latter-day Saint Charities and UNICEF USA have been working together since 2013 on common goals related to children and their families, especially refugees.

Providing global immunizations has been a long-standing priority for the 16.5 million-member church’s humanitarian efforts.

(Photo courtesy of UNICEF and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Latter-day Saint Charities has supported global immunization initiatives led by UNICEF and the World Health Organization. Here, a woman receives a vaccination in Chad.

Since 2002, the faith has given financial support, according to the church’s website, to “prominent global immunization partners to procure and deliver vaccinations, monitor diseases, respond to outbreaks, train health care workers, and develop elimination and eradication programming.”

These efforts have resulted, the release said, in “more immunized children and fewer lives lost to measles, rubella, maternal and neonatal tetanus, polio, diarrhea, pneumonia and yellow fever.”

And to show their support for the current COVID-19 vaccines, the church’s governing First Presidency — Russell M. Nelson, Dallin H. Oaks and Henry B. Eyring — provided photos of themselves getting vaccinated Jan 19.

The three said in a release that they urged church members, employees and missionaries “to be good global citizens and help quell the pandemic by safeguarding themselves and others through immunization.”

Latter-day Saint Charities reports it has participated in or led 1,050 COVID-19 relief projects thus far in 152 countries.

(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.