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The Financial Express

WHO urges world leaders to focus on vaccine equity at UNGA

| Updated: September 20, 2021 21:55:45


WHO urges world leaders to focus on vaccine equity at UNGA

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has urged the global leaders, attending the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), to guarantee equitable access to Covid vaccines and other life-saving tools.

It also called for ensuring that the world is better prepared to respond to future pandemics; renewing efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), reports UNB agency.

The Covid-19 pandemic has already claimed nearly 5.0 million lives, and the virus continues to circulate actively across the globe.

Vaccines are the most critical tool to end the pandemic and save lives and livelihoods. More than 5.7 billion vaccine doses have been administered globally, but 73 per cent of all doses have been administered in just 10 countries.

High-income countries have administered 61 times more doses per inhabitant than low-income ones.

The longer vaccine inequity persists, the more the virus will keep circulating and evolving, and the longer the social and economic disruption will continue.

So, the UN health agency targets to vaccinate at least 40 per cent of the population of every country by the end of this year, and 70 per cent by the middle of next year.

These targets are achievable if countries and manufacturers make a genuine commitment to vaccine equity.

The WHO is calling on countries to fulfil their dose-sharing pledges immediately and to swap their near-term vaccine deliveries with COVAX and AVAT (African Covid-19 Vaccine Acquisition Task Team).

The UN agency is also calling on manufacturers to prioritise supplies to COVAX and partners, and for countries and manufacturers to facilitate the sharing of technology, know-how and intellectual property to support regional vaccine manufacturing.

COVAX, the global initiative for equitable distribution of Covid-19 vaccines, is led by the WHO; Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, Unicef and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).

It is the only global initiative that is working with governments and manufacturers to ensure Covid-19 vaccines are available worldwide to both higher-income and lower-income countries.

So far, COVAX has shipped more than 260 million doses to 141 countries.

However, the WHO urged all countries to break the cycle of "panic and neglect" seen after previous health emergencies, and commit adequate financial resources, as well as political will, to strengthening health emergency preparedness across the globe.

Universal health coverage (UHC) is a keystone of global health security. Despite progress in UHC in recent years, 90 per cent of countries have reported disruptions in essential health services due to the pandemic, with the consequences reverberating beyond the health sector.

Serious investment in UHC and pandemic preparedness is critical not only to bolster global health security but also to getting the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda back on track.

The pandemic has reversed progress towards the SDGs, including gains that had been made on eradicating poverty, eliminating gender inequality, vaccinating children against communicable diseases and girls' and boys' education.

However, it is also providing the world with new opportunities to do things differently and to truly collaborate on building back better - towards a healthier, fairer, more inclusive and sustainable world.

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