COVID-19 Vaccine Delivery Partnership Global Lead Coordinator Ted Chaiban’s remarks at the Security Council briefing on equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines in conflict and humanitarian crises
“Mr President, your Excellencies, dear colleagues,
“Thank you for the opportunity to address you today. We congratulate the UK on its Presidency and appreciate convening, with the UAE, the Council to recognize the importance of accelerating progress in COVID-19 vaccination as a key milestone towards ending this pandemic.
“Just over 1 million cases of COVID-19 were reported to WHO in the last 24 hours – the pandemic is still far from over. We have safe and available vaccines that can protect against death and severe illness caused by COVID-19 and help avoid the next variant and there is an urgency, with over six million lives having been lost to date, to raise COVID-19 vaccination in countries that did not have this opportunity in 2021. The next six months are critical.
“More than 11.1 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered globally and 124 of the 194 WHO member states have vaccinated more than 40% of their population. 51 countries have reached more than 70% of their population. However, this is only 11% in low-income countries. 83% of the population in WHO’s Africa region and 51% in its Eastern Mediterranean region, which includes Afghanistan, remain unvaccinated.
“In 2022, we must take the rapid action needed to accelerate vaccination. The window of opportunity is gradually closing. We risk losing the momentum and failing on vaccine equity.
“The COVID-19 Vaccine Delivery Partnership is focused, amongst others, on 34 countries which were at 10% or less full vaccine coverage and face the biggest challenges to increasing vaccination coverage. The goal is to vaccinate all adults and adolescents – starting with the elderly, healthcare and other frontline workers and those with underlying health conditions who are at the highest risk from COVID-19.
“19 of the 34 countries identified for concerted support by the Delivery Partnership are included in the Global Humanitarian Overview for 2022.
“We know there are many competing health, humanitarian and economic priorities in these countries. We must therefore use every opportunity to bundle or integrate COVID-19 vaccination with other health and humanitarian interventions and leverage these investments for the longer term strengthening of health systems.
“In many countries, COVID-19 vaccination is being integrated with measles campaigns and, in complement, with maternal health and routine immunization. COVID-19 vaccination is being used to strengthen cold chain, health management information systems and to train and provide incentives to health workers, including the surge required.
“With strong political leadership, country coordination and planning, and implementation of mass vaccination campaigns, countries can quickly pick up their vaccination rates and coverage. Since January 2022, the number of countries with a full population vaccination coverage rate at or below 10% has dropped from 34 countries to 18 countries currently.
“We have just wrapped up a mission in Ethiopia where their rounds of campaigns have increased vaccination coverage from 4% in January to just over 20% now – including in some of the conflict affected areas. We also agreed to bundle COVID-19 vaccination efforts with an upcoming measles and vitamin A campaign and to focus on the vaccination of IDPs using the single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
“In the Central African Republic, strong community engagement through focus group discussions, TV and radio spots with leaders and influencers, and young people being mobilized has led to almost 19% of the population being vaccinated.
“I am speaking to you now from the Democratic Republic of the Congo where this week we will be meeting the government and key partners to better address the urgent bottlenecks to expanding vaccination coverage across this country of nearly 100 million people. We know Risk Communications and Community Engagement is a key component to success so we will be working with in-country partners to support clear communications to increase demand and work to improve convenient access to vaccination.
“In humanitarian settings, from Afghanistan to Yemen, addressing low vaccination rates requires integrating with humanitarian priorities, working with humanitarian partners and a sustained, country-by-country effort to identify and overcome the primary obstacles to increasing vaccination rates among the populations affected by natural disasters, conflict and socio-political instability.
“We recognize the significance of the Humanitarian Buffer, a mechanism established within the COVAX facility to ensure access to COVID-19 vaccines for high-risk and vulnerable populations living in humanitarian settings. As of today, two applicants have successfully received vaccine doses via the Humanitarian Buffer — the Ministries of Health in Iran and Uganda — but the partners are committed to make it a more user friendly, easily accessible mechanism to ensure that humanitarian populations not included in national vaccination plans, microplanning, or the implementation process can equally benefit from vaccination.
“The COVID-19 Vaccine Delivery Partnership and partners — UNICEF, WHO, GAVI, the World Bank, the Africa CDC and others — are providing concerted support to all these countries, mobilizing political engagement, providing flexible funding ($21 million in last two months), strategic advice and technical assistance. We are lining up partners behind one country team, one plan and one budget to put countries at the center and reduce their transaction costs.
“Mr President, Excellencies, to address the significant vaccine equity gap that continues to pose a threat for global health security, please consider the following requests:
“First, continue your strong support and actions to implement Resolutions 2532 and 2565 with a particular focus on ensuring countries continue to prioritise COVID-19 vaccination.
“Second, with appreciation for the US$4.8 billion in pledges made at the COVAX AMC summit co-hosted with Germany, turn these commitments into support for lower-income countries’ COVID-19 vaccination needs, with a priority on delivery systems. Flexible, agile funding is vital and these investments can last beyond the pandemic.
“Third, advocate for and help guarantee full, safe and unhindered access, in line with International Humanitarian Law — including protecting humanitarian corridors — as a means to getting vital supplies of vaccines and other essential equipment for the delivery of COVID-19 vaccinations to populations in need and ensure the safety of health and humanitarian personnel administering vaccines in humanitarian settings.
“Fourth, advocate across government, and work with UN country teams and partners to ensure strong national vaccination planning that addresses the needs of all populations living within the national territory, regardless of nationality, migration or refugee status.
“Fifth, engage in the important conversations on the global health emergency architecture and advocate for strong governance and an investment in the basics of primary health care as a key element of future pandemic preparedness.
Source: UN Children’s Fund