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Secretary-General Calls for Early Action to Avoid World of ‘Vaccine Haves and Have-Nots’, at African COVID-19 Strategy Meeting

Following is the text of UN Secretary‑General António Guterres’ video message to the high-level webinar on the African COVID-19 Vaccine Financing and Deployment Strategy, held today:

I welcome your invitation to join you as you come together to focus on COVID‑19 vaccines for the people of Africa.  I have been consistently issuing a loud and strong call to the international community:  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 prioritize those most at risk in all countries and close the financing gap.  That means all health-care workers around the world and others on the front line, including humanitarian workers and high-risk populations.

I commend the African Union’s efforts through the COVID-19 African Vaccine Acquisition Task Force to secure an additional 270 million vaccine doses for African countries, complementing the cooperation with [the COVAX Facility of the Access to COVID‑19 Tools Accelerator].

We applaud the African Export-Import Bank initiative to avail financing for countries to access the new vaccines and the recent efforts by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to meeting your ambition of reaching at least 60 per cent of the population as quickly as possible.

Your initiative sends a strong message of your leadership and determination for equitable, timely access.  It is grounded in a core understanding: vaccine equity is in every country’s self-interest.  It is also the fastest way to re-open the global economy and start a sustainable recovery.

Unfortunately, inequities are growing in COVID-19 vaccine access and use.  We cannot have a world divided between vaccine haves and have-nots.  I want to utilize this vital platform today to once again urge all countries, economies and manufacturers to work with — and through — the COVAX facility to realize the commitments of equitable access, especially for the most vulnerable.

This includes sharing new excess doses with COVAX to vaccinate immediately all health-care and front‑line workers.  The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) — with the World Bank, Gavi and partners — are urgently working to support the readiness of all countries.

National actions now, on the cusp of vaccine deliveries from COVAX, are essential for rapid vaccine deployment.  As additional vaccines come through the development pipeline, I call on manufacturers to prioritize the review of data by WHO, so they can be deployed by COVAX as quickly as possible.  This will be a strong signal of their intent to meet international standards and to put global access first.

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 immunization programmes.

You can count on my full support and solidarity on all these challenges.  COVID-19 will never be defeated one country, or one continent, at a time.  It will take a global response to reach everyone, everywhere.  Thank you for your leadership and commitment to solidarity on the continent.


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