Noting that there is a "glaring disparity" in the accessibility of coronavirus vaccines globally, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Wednesday urged countries to stop "vaccine nationalism", saying "hoarding superfluous" doses will defeat the efforts towards attaining collective health security.
In his address at the United Nations Security Council's open debate on Implementation of Resolution 2532, Jaishankar said that India has been "very much" at the forefront of the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and is providing vaccines to the world under 'Vaccine Maitri' initiatives.
Jaishankar cited Bhagavad Gita to reflect India's approach to meeting the COVID-19 challenge.
"The Bhagavad Gita states 'do your work with the welfare of others always in mind'. That is the spirit in which India approaches the COVID challenge and urges this Council to work collectively to address its different dimensions," he said.
The minister, who made his remarks through video conferencing, listed five concerns regarding the vaccine including lack of global coordination regarding the distribution of vaccines and the massive costs of inequitable vaccine distribution.
"As we assess the impact of the pandemic and the prospects of recovery, including through the availability of vaccines, there are five concerns that India would like to share. One, lack of global coordination regarding vaccine distribution will hit conflict-affected areas and poorer countries hardest. The ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) estimates that more than 60 million people in such areas are at risk," he said.
"Two, there currently exists glaring disparity inaccessibility of vaccines globally. Equity in access to the vaccine is important for mitigating the impact of the pandemic. Three, this disparity calls for cooperation within the framework of COVAX, which is trying to secure adequate vaccine doses for the world's poorest nations," he added.
Jaishankar noted that the International Chamber of Commerce predicts that the global economy stands to lose as much as USD 9.2 trillion if the international community fails to address vaccine inequity.
"Four, from an economic standpoint, the costs of inequitable vaccine distribution are massive. And five, routine immunization programmes have been thrown into disarray. Due to the pandemic, about 80 million children in at least 68 countries are at risk of diphtheria, measles, and polio," he said.
The minister also put forth nine points to emerge more resilient against COVID-19.
He called on countries to stop disinformation campaigns from taking advantage of the pandemic and effectively address public resistance to vaccines.
"Vaccine- related information must be contextual, empathetic, and culturally sensitive while providing scientific and accurate facts to allay the fears and concerns of the public," he said.
He also called for collaboration between the countries on genomic surveillance to track virus mutations and variants and exchange information in this regard in a regular and timely fashion.
"Persist with the vaccination drive, along with other public health measures, to slow down the virus's ability to infect new people and mutate further," he said.
"Improve public health infrastructure and build capacity through effective training programmes in vaccine delivery, especially in areas where health infrastructure is weak. Stop 'Vaccine nationalism'; indeed, actively encourage internationalism. Hoarding superfluous doses will defeat our efforts towards attaining collective health security," the minister added.
He also laid stress on the resumption of immunization programme across the world before children's lives are threatened by other diseases and said that COVAX facilities must be strengthened to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines to all countries in a fair and equitable manner.
Urgently resume immunization programs across the world before children's lives are threatened by other diseases. We simply cannot trade one health crisis for another. Stop disinformation campaigns taking advantage of this pandemic to advance their nefarious objectives and activities. Proactively prepare for the next global pandemic by focusing on improving capacities, developing protocols, and building a knowledge base and expertise," he said.
The minister said India had earlier provided critical medicines, diagnostic kits, ventilators and PPEs to more than 150 countries, about 80 of them on a grant basis.
"Today, the pharmacy of the world is stepping forward to meet the global vaccines challenge... We are, of course, a significant source of supply to the COVAX facility. But in addition, India is also directly sending vaccines to friends and partners.," he said.
"Starting with our immediate neighbours, 25 nations across the world have already received Made in India vaccines. Forty-nine more countries will be supplied in the coming days, ranging from Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean to Africa, South-East Asia and the Pacific Islands. Keeping in mind the UN Peacekeepers who operate in such difficult circumstances, we would like to announce today a gift of 200,000 doses for them. We are working actively with GAVI, WHO and ACT Accelerator. Our contribution has also supported the SAARC," he added.
Resolution 2532, which was adopted by the Security Council on July, 1 2020, expressed concern about the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic across the world, especially in countries ravaged by armed conflicts, or in post-conflict situations, or affected by humtarian crises.
( With inputs from ANI )
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