After 12 months where the world has faced “a tsunami of suffering”, the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines represents “some light at the end of the tunnel” said the UN chief on Thursday, marking the anniversary of the World Health Organization (WHO) issuing its pandemic alert.
“So many lives have been lost”, said António Guterres, with “economies upended and societies left reeling. The most vulnerable have suffered the most. Those left behind are being left even further behind.”
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He commended the effort across the world to adapt, and live in news ways, honouring health workers “for their dedication and sacrifice and all other essential workers who have kept societies running. I salute all those who have stood up to the deniers and disinformation, and have followed science and safety protocols”, he said. “You have helped save lives.”
The key – vaccines for all
Mr. Guterres said the UN would continue mobilizing the international community to live up to the promise of the COVAX equitable vaccines initiative, and make them “affordable and available for all, to recover better, and to put a special focus on the needs of those who have borne the burden of this crisis on so many levels - women, minorities, older persons, persons with disabilities, refugees, migrants and indigenous peoples.”
All in all, with the unprecedented vaccine development effort in multiple nations across the world, “there’s some light at the end of the tunnel” he said, lauding the start of last week’s historic rollout which has continued by COVAX, to bring shots to some of the lowest-income nations.
“Yet I am deeply concerned that many low-income countries have not yet received a single dose, while wealthier countries are on track to vaccinating their entire population”, added the UN chief, highlighting what he said were the many examples of “vaccine nationalism” and hoarding in the richer nations taking place, together with side deals involving manufacturers.
‘Greatest moral test’
“The global vaccination campaign represents the greatest moral test of our times”, he said.
“It is also essential to restart the global economy - and help the world move from locking down societies to locking down the virus”, added the Secretary-General. “COVID-19 vaccines must be seen as a global public good. The world needs to unite to produce and distribute sufficient vaccines for all, which means at least doubling manufacturing capacity around the world.
“That effort must start now. Only together can we end this pandemic and recover.”
Mr. Guterres said that solidarity was the key, and the creation of a genuine united front: “Only together can we revive our economies. And then, together, we can all get back to the things we love.”