Addressing misinformation and countering vaccine hesitancy features prominently in a political declaration launched at the United Nations General Assembly, as countries pledged to “work together as one” to defeat the pandemic, and help people and the planet to recover better.
More than 181 Member States voiced support for the text entitled “The Political Declaration on Equitable Global Access to COVID-19 Vaccines”, which was unveiled at an informal meeting of the Assembly on Friday.
“We strongly believe that ‘no one can be safe, until everyone is safe’, and that equitable and affordable access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines must be ensured to have a speedy recovery and contribute to putting an end to the pandemic”, the text said.
“We pledge to treat COVID-19 vaccination as a global public good by ensuring affordable, equitable and fair access to vaccines for all.”
‘Deep concern’ over uneven distribution
While committing to solidarity and intensified international cooperation, countries expressed concern that despite international agreements and initiatives, the “distribution of COVID-19 vaccines is still uneven worldwide, both among and within countries”.
“We are deeply concerned about the low availability of COVID-19 vaccines in low and middle income countries”, they said, calling for a “significant increase” in support for contracts provided by the UN-backed equitable shots initiative, COVAX, with vaccine producers, and not limiting the availability of vaccines as a result of competing bilateral contracts.
Combating misinformation with ‘Verified’ messages
The political declaration also included a commitment by countries to address misinformation and tackling vaccine hesitancy, key challenges to successful inoculation campaigns against COVID-19 globally.
Countries highlighted the importance of increasing acceptance of the need to fully vaccinate populations across the world. Stating that they will cooperate with the UN’s ‘Verified’ initiative, they called on the UN system overall to help counter so-called vaccine hesitancy in all parts of the world.
Launched in May last year, the ‘Verified’ initiative is aimed at promoting and sharing compelling, clear content and fact-based advice, to fight conspiracies and hate speech, and foster global solidarity.
Melissa Fleming, Under-Secretary-General of the UN Department of Global Communications (DGC) underlined the Organization’s efforts to vaccinate the world and ensure that that no one is left behind.
“The statements endorsed by Member States reinforce their commitment to our Verified Initiative and to our work to produce and disseminate factual, timely, targeted, clear, accessible, multilingual and science-based information”, she added.
Global Media and Information Literacy Week
Separately, the General Assembly proclaimed a new Global Media and Information Literacy Week, to be observed annually from 24-31 October.
In a resolution adopted on 25 March, the Assembly noted the importance of information literacy and media for sustainable development as well as empowerment of people, and highlighted the need to equip people with the tools necessary to identify and prevent the spread of misinformation and disinformation, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Assembly also reaffirmed the need to ensure that the fight against disinformation and misinformation “promotes and does not infringe on individuals’ freedom of expression and access to information”.