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Zimbabwe began its first Covid-19 vaccinations on Feb. 18 2021. Zimbabwe began its first Covid-19 vaccinations on Feb. 18 2021.   (ANSA)

UN decries unfair access to vaccine across world

The United Nations and its partners working to achieve equitable distribution of Covid-19 vaccines appealed on Wednesday for the UN Security Council to ensure people caught in conflict have access to this lifesaving treatment.

By Robin Gomes

According to the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the goal of providing vaccines to all is “the biggest moral test before the global community”.  Addressing a high-level Security Council virtual meeting at the United Nations on Wednesday, described

 “Wildly uneven and unfair” 

Addressing a high-level Security Council meeting at the United Nations on Wednesday, the UN chief stressed that everywhere must have access to the anti-Covid inoculation programme.   He sharply criticized a “wildly uneven and unfair” distribution of vaccines between the rich north and the poor south.  More than 130 countries have not received a single dose, while 10 countries have administered 75 percent of all vaccinations.

Guterres demanded a global effort to get all people in every nation vaccinated as soon as possible.  “We are only safe if everyone is safe,” he said, noting that those affected by conflict and insecurity greatly risk being left behind.

The coronavirus has so far infected more than 110 million people, killing at least 2.4 million of them. As manufacturers struggle to ramp up the production of vaccines, many countries complain of being left out and even rich nations are facing shortages and domestic complaints.

Support for COVAX

The UN’s World Health Organization and its international partners established the COVAX (COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access) programme to buy and deliver coronavirus vaccines for the world’s poorest people.

The UN secretary-general called on the international community to do even more, calling for an urgent Global Vaccination Plan to bring together those who can ensure equitable vaccine distribution, such as scientists, vaccine producers and those who can fund the effort. He also urged the world’s major economic powers in the Group of 20 to establish an emergency task force to establish a plan and coordinate its implementation and financing.

COVAX has already missed its own goal of beginning coronavirus vaccinations in poor countries at the same time that shots were rolled out in rich countries. WHO says COVAX needs $5 billion in 2021.

UNICEF

Meanwhile, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) also appealed for access to vaccines for all.  "The only way out of this pandemic for any of us, is to ensure vaccinations are available for all of us,” said UNICEF Executive Director, Henrietta Fore addressing Wednesday’s Security Council meeting.

A matter of justice

"In this historic effort, we must include the millions of people living through, or fleeing, conflict and instability.   UNICEF is assisting countries in preparation for Covid-19 vaccine distribution with the target of procuring two billion doses by the end of the year.

“This historic effort deserves historic support,” Fore said.  “Help us ensure that the light at the end of the tunnel shines on us all - including the families and communities enduring the horrors of conflict,” she said.

"Equitable access to vaccines for all people, including those living under conflict,” she said, “is essential, not only as a matter of justice but as the only pathway to ending this pandemic for all and to sowing the seeds of care, hope and even peace in countries that have seen far too little.”

Fore called for the support of the Security Council to get countries to ensure that all people are included in national vaccination plans, regardless of their status or if they live in areas not under government control.  

Global ceasefire

While underscoring the need for a global ceasefire, in line with the Secretary-General’s appeal issued in March 2020, the UNICEF chief also called for the resumption of immunization campaigns against measles, polio and other diseases, which were paused during the pandemic.  “We cannot allow the fight against one deadly disease to cause us to lose ground in the fight against others”, she said. (Source: UN)

18 February 2021, 15:23