UNGA President Shahid discusses vaccine equity with WHO Director-General

Maldivian Foreign Minister and President of the 76th UNGA, Abdulla Shahid. (Photo/Xinhua)

President of the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, Maldivian Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid has held discussions with the Director-General of World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus regarding vaccine equity.

The meeting between the two was held as part of video series ‘In Conversation With’ initiated by the Office of the President of the United Nations General Assembly.

Shahid said that the purpose of this virtual meeting is to hold discussions on an international level, regarding the issue of vaccine equity and the need to ensure fair and equitable access to vaccines for everyone, everywhere.

In the meeting, Director-General Tedros briefed Shahid on how much vaccine has been delivered through the COVAX facility, obstructions to vaccine equity and vaccinations goals on a world level.

Discussing obstructions to vaccine equity, he noted that COVAX facility was created to provide a mechanism for tool procurement and equitable rollout of vaccines. Nevertheless, he pointed out that as some countries making bilateral deals with manufacturers, ordering more doses than needed, had effectively excluded COVAX and low-income countries.

Director-General Tedros said that this has resulted in 34 countries not being able to vaccinate even 10 percent of their population whilst 86 countries have vaccinated less than 40 percent.

He stressed that this was especially worrying in countries facing humanitarian crises – adding that the inequity has also cost lives and prolonged the pandemic.

Director-General Tedros said supply constraints of COVID-19 subsequently eased at the end of 2021 – after which the COVAX facility has been able to deliver more than one billion doses of vaccine.

He noted that WHO’s target to overcome this global health emergency is to vaccinate 70 percent of the population of each country by the middle of this year.

Speaking further, Director-General Tedros said that it is possible to bridge the vaccine gap this year, however there is much to do in order to achieve this.

On this note, he said that the challenges of supply faced in the past year is now being replaced by the challenge of rolling out vaccines as fast and far as possible.

He added that WHO and its partners are actively supporting countries to overcome the difficulties faced in leadership, coordination, lack of supply visibility, short shelf of donated vaccines, limited cold chain capacity, misinformation, vaccine confidence, health worker shortages and competing priorities.

Director-General Tedros also stressed that countries require more than vaccines; including testing and treatment arrangements within its health systems.

He said this is why it is so important that countries full fund the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator to save lives and livelihoods, end the COVID-19 pandemic as global health emergency and drive a sustainable recovery.

In concluding the meeting, Shahid also affirmed that there is a lot to do in order to achieved vaccine equity, however, stressed that it is far from impossible.

“Together, we can reach everyone, everywhere, and put this pandemic to rest,” he had said.