I thank the briefers for their insightful presentations.
It is clear that vaccines are not effective until people are vaccinated. And the disparity today is stark. While some countries are close to universal vaccination, others – including those affected by humanitarian crises – have only reached 5%.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, less than one percent of the population is fully vaccinated. In Ethiopia, less than 18 percent.
Equitable access between countries remains a global challenge. The most vulnerable have been hit the hardest by this pandemic, including children affected by armed conflict.
Military use of schools has increased. Vulnerability to recruitment and use in armed conflict has increased. And vulnerability to rape and other forms of sexual violence including trafficking has increased. Community protection mechanisms and rule of law institutions are weakened. And monitoring and protection mechanisms on the ground have been severely affected.
All this, caused by the isolation, and critical deterioration of the socioeconomic situation caused by the pandemic as well as some of the measures put in place to counter it.
While COVID-19 has brought faster research, development, and a larger manufacturing capacity than ever before, delivery still remains a challenge. Two years on, a fully financed ACT-A and its COVAX facility could not be more urgent. To ensure equitable access to vaccines, diagnostics, and treatments, including for those displaced or living in areas beyond the reach of national health authorities.
Regrettably the COVAX humanitarian buffer has not been a success so far. We call on manufacturers to waive their indemnity and liability requirements for buffer doses. We must address all obstacles that prevent it from being used by organizations and countries.
A sufficient supply of vaccine doses on its own is not enough to increase vaccination rates. Allow me to highlight three points in this regard:
First, community engagement is key. Close dialogue is vital to enhance acceptance and confidence in COVID-19 vaccines. Especially in conflict settings where trust in national authorities may be low, and the level of misinformation high. High-risk groups must be a priority in delivery everywhere.
Second, local health systems capacity to deliver must be addressed. We have examples of vaccines expiring on the tarmac in South Sudan, Afghanistan and elsewhere. COVID-19 vaccination needs to be integrated as part of broader health strategies. And should complement routine vaccinations, not occur at their expense.
And third, we need to ensure access. As more vaccines arrive in countries at war- full, safe, and unhindered humanitarian access remains imperative. This must include the protection of humanitarian and medical workers and their assets. Since the start of 2022, there have already been 52 reported incidents of violence or threats against health care in Myanmar. Resulting in 7 casualties among health care workers and 8 damaged health facilities. In Sudan, 10 health workers were reported injured by violence. And in Ukraine, there have been a total of 91 reported incidents, including 21 attacks on health care workers and 77 attacks on health care facilities. Although we know actual figures are likely much higher. Attacks on healthcare, medical, and humanitarian personnel are unacceptable and show the disregard for parties’ obligations under international humanitarian law.
In Resolution 2565 we recognised that those affected by conflict and insecurity are particularly vulnerable and at risk of being left behind. We must continue to work to ensure equitable access to COIVD-19 vaccination. The Council has a key role to play, including following up on its resolutions.