Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary-General

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said “vaccine equity” was the fastest way to reopen the global economy and start a sustainable recovery.

Guterres stated this on Wednesday in a video message to a high-level webinar on the African COVID-19 Vaccine Financing and Development Strategy on Wednesday evening.

Noting that equitable access to vaccine is in every country’s self-interest, he said the world could not afford to be divided between the haves and the have-nots.

He stated that COVID-19 could not be defeated in one country or one continent at a time, adding that a global response was required to win the battle.

Decrying the “growing inequalities” in vaccine access and use, Guterres reiterated his appeal to wealthier nations not to hoard the product.

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“We must ensure that vaccines are seen as a global public good, people’s vaccines, accessible and affordable to all.

“We must work together to prioritise those most at risk in all countries and close the financing gap,” he said.

The UN Chief lauded the African Union’s efforts to secure additional 270 million doses for countries in the continent.

Guterres also applauded the African Export-Import Bank for its initiative to provide African countries with financing to access the new vaccines.

He equally acknowledged efforts by the Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS) to realise the target of vaccinating 60 per cent of the population as quickly as possible.

The Secretary General said those initiatives and efforts were a demonstration of strong leadership, determination and solidarity in the fight against the pandemic in Africa.

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He called on countries and all countries, economies and vaccine manufacturers to work with, and through the COVAX facility to realise the commitments of vaccine for all.

This, he said, includes sharing new excess doses with COVAX to vaccinate immediately all health care and frontline workers.

The COVAX Facility is an international alliance established to ensure equitable global distribution of the vaccines.

Guterres also urged manufacturers to prioritise the review of data by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as more vaccines are rolled out.

He said that would enable COVAX to deploy them as quickly as possible.

“This will be a strong signal of their intent to meet international standards and to put global access first.

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“Finally, while we all know that COVID-19 vaccines bring a much-needed source of hope, we must not neglect existing interventions and services.

“We need to continue strengthening essential health services and systems and routine immunisation programmes

“You can count on my full support and solidarity on all these challenges,” the UN chief said.

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