The UK Mission to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, has this week brought together leaders from various diplomatic missions, international institutions and non-governmental organisations to discuss the fair and equitable distribution of vaccines to developing countries around the globe.
The session brought together senior figures from the humanitarian and health spheres to address the challenge of guaranteeing vaccine access to some of the world’s most vulnerable communities.
During the meeting, the leaders acknowledged a need to not only increase the supply of vaccines to poorer countries, but also accelerate the preparedness of such nations for vaccine delivery [in terms of logistics and training up health workers to administer them] with a special focus on conflict zones, engage local communities to combat vaccine misinformation, and promote greater cooperation and cohesion between key players in the vaccine rollout programmes in affected areas.
The attendees also agreed to ensure that other health and humanitarian priorities are not shelved by an emphasis on Covid vaccines, and to take a holistic approach that recognises the full plethora of needs of those in humanitarian settings.
The UK Ambassador and Permanent Representative in Geneva, Simon Manley - chairing the session - said: “We are all rightly focused on scaling up and speeding up vaccine production and distribution, but we also need to ensure that those vaccines reach the arms of the most vulnerable. This meeting was about bringing together the humanitarian community to ensure that we are as well prepared for that as possible, not least through engagement with the communities themselves.”
Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organisation [WHO], added: “The equation is quite simple: the sooner doses are shared, the sooner we can vaccinate the most vulnerable all over the world. And the sooner we do that, the sooner we can end the pandemic and drive a truly global and inclusive recovery.”
Aurélia Nguyen, Managing Director of the WHO's vaccine access scheme, COVAX, hailed this week’s meeting as “hugely important” and called on major global players to do their part in protecting the vulnerable.
Nguyen said: “As we fight this pandemic, we have to protect the most vulnerable. This meeting was hugely important, helping to accelerate plans to deliver Covid-19 vaccines in humanitarian contexts. COVAX’s humanitarian buffer will help countries and humanitarian agencies provide vaccines to all high-risk groups, irrespective of their legal status.”
Following the meeting, the UN’s Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, urged wealthy countries to mobilise on equitable vaccine distribution, warning that the current level of effort was “inadequate”.
UNICEF Executive Director, Henrietta Fore, stressed that extensive vaccine distribution would be important to stave off the emerging threat of new Covid variants worldwide.
She said: “The last 18 months have provided a dramatic reminder of the importance of making vaccinations available to all, as the main intervention in ending a pandemic like the one we face with Covid-19.
“By definition, that must include the millions of people living through humanitarian crises. When the virus spreads anywhere, it poses a threat everywhere — especially as it mutates into deadlier or more contagious variants.”