More nations urged to join initiative for equitable access to Covid-19 vaccine

A study released by Oxfam showed a group of wealthy countries have bought up over half the promised Covid-19 vaccine stocks.
A study released by Oxfam showed a group of wealthy countries have bought up over half the promised Covid-19 vaccine stocks.PHOTO: REUTERS

Ending the pandemic requires a collective effort, and more countries should join the global initiative to support equitable access to a Covid-19 vaccine worldwide, said the European Union and 14 nations including Singapore yesterday.

"We encourage other countries to join this collective global effort to support vaccine multilateralism, and to ensure the unimpeded fair and equitable distribution of Covid-19 vaccines worldwide," the countries, which make up the Friends of the Covax Facility (FOF), said in a statement.

The FOF is co-chaired by Singapore and Switzerland and also includes the EU and 12 other countries - Australia, Canada, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Saudi Arabia, New Zealand, Norway, Qatar, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.

The statement comes as a study released by Oxfam, an international confederation of non-government organisations, showed a group of wealthy countries representing just 13 per cent of the world population have bought up over half the promised Covid-19 vaccine stocks.

But multilateral initiatives have been touted by experts as ways of reducing the negative impacts of vaccine nationalism.

The Covid-19 Vaccine Global Access (Covax) Facility, for example, is a financing scheme that will enable fast and equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines for participating countries and lower-income nations. It is co-led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance; the World Health Organisation (WHO); and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.

By working with governments and vaccine manufacturers, the Covax Facility aims to deliver two billion doses of safe, effective vaccines that have passed regulatory approval and/or WHO pre-qualification by the end of next year.

The Covax Facility is about to set a precedent of multilateral cooperation and solidarity, said the FOF statement.

"We support the facility's goal to deliver two billion doses of safe and effective Covid-19 vaccines by 2021, and welcome that it currently manages the world's largest and most diverse Covid-19 vaccine portfolio. The FOF is pleased to have participated collaboratively in the facility's co-creation," it added.

Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the FOF statement "underscores members' strong support for vaccine multilateralism and the Covax Facility's efforts to ensure access to Covid-19 vaccines for all".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 22, 2020, with the headline 'More nations urged to join initiative for equitable access to Covid-19 vaccine'. Print Edition | Subscribe