India’s Health Minister Dr. Harshvardhan on Thursday said more COVID-19 vaccines need to be developed and rapidly deployed across the world in an equitable manner to defeat the deadly pandemic.
Chairing a video conference of the opening session of the 33rd meeting of Health Ministers of Commonwealth countries, the Indian minister emphasised the need to support the WHO-led initiative which is expediting development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines.
The WHO’s COVAX programme aims to deliver at least two billion vaccines by the end of 2021, covering 20% of the most vulnerable population in about 92 Low and Middle-Income countries. India believes that this alone may not be enough and must be supplemented by all multilateral & bilateral platforms in accelerating coordinated action focused on equitable access to vaccines while also ensuring fair and transparent pricing, the minister said.
The theme of the conference: “Commonwealth Response to COVID-19: Ensuring Equitable Access to Vaccines and Building Resilience for Health Systems and Emergencies,” will be discussed over two days by the Commonwealth health ministers and WHO chief Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is also participating in the meeting.
Sharing his views on the way forward, Dr Harshvardhan said, “We must acknowledge that if the threat continues to loom in any country or region, it holds the potential to spill over and cover the entire globe. No country can remain safe in silos!”
The Minister spoke of India’s long held belief of ‘VasudhaivaKutumbakam’, which sees the entire world as one family and is the guiding principle of the country’s stance on the issue. He reminded member delegates that India has provided COVID-19 vaccines to more than 90 countries under its Vaccine Maitri initiative and is committed to working with all partners to do more.
Dr. Harsh Vardhan said sharing of knowledge, resources & technology, especially with small and vulnerable states is thus imperative to end this global threat.”
The poor and vulnerable are often left reeling under severe financial distress due to any illness. The Minister noted that this pandemic has thus foregrounded the need to intensify efforts towards achieving the ultimate goal of universal health coverage. “My motto has always been ‘Health for those without wealth’”, he stated in this regard.
He reminded the forum, that Commonwealth Health Ministers met virtually in May 2020 for the first time to define a coordinated mechanism for responding to the ongoing pandemic which had proposed on building a COVID-19 Technical Working Group by leveraging a tailored price-sharing database for medicines, vaccines and health technologies and hoped that the deliberations over the next two days would continue to build on the progress of the collaborative efforts so far.