The World Health Organisation says the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that other sectors are crucial to preparing for health pandemics.
It noted that the viral pandemic has confirmed that pandemic preparedness is not a job for only the health sector.
According to the WHO, while the development of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines in record time has given hope to countries’, the gross inequity in vaccine sharing has undermined this achievement.
Giving his keynote address at the 2021 St Petersburg International Economic Forum, the WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus said COVID-19 has affected every part of societies and economies, noting that there are intimate links between the health of humans, animals and the planet.
He stressed that every country in the world is at risk without an equitable global COVID-19 vaccination.
“The development of safe and effective vaccines in record time has given us light at the end of the tunnel.
“But gross inequities undermine this achievement,” he said.
According to the WHO DG, of the 1.8 billion doses administered globally, only 0.4 percent have been administered in low-income countries.
“The consequences of this disparity are clear: cases and deaths from COVID-19 globally remain high, even as new variants of concern are emerging.
“The more the virus circulates, the more likely it is that variants will emerge that render vaccines less effective, setting us back even further.
“Inequitable vaccination is a threat to all countries, not just those with the fewest vaccines.
“We have the mechanisms in place, like the COVAX Facility, to make this happen. COVAX works. But it needs full support,” Ghebreyesus said.
The WHO chief said as the vaccination rates increase, the public health and social measures that have helped to protect people can begin to be eased, but they must be eased cautiously.
“Lifting them too quickly could be dangerous.
“But the best way to fight pandemics and epidemics is to stop them before they start.
“Countries can only truly keep their own people safe if they are accountable to each other at the international level, which means openly sharing data, information, technology and resources,” he said.
He added that the pandemic is teaching everyone many lessons.
Highlighting three of the lessons, Ghebreyesus said “First, in our interconnected world, no one is safe until everyone is safe. Ensuring equitable access to safe, effective and quality-assured vaccines is the best way to end the pandemic, restore confidence and drive a truly global recovery.
“Second, the pandemic has reminded us of the intimate links between the health of humans, animals and the planet that sustains us. We can only protect human health with a One Health, all-of-government approach that addresses the root causes of disease.
“Third, the pandemic has taught us that health is not a luxury for those can afford it, or simply an outcome of development; it’s a human right, and a prerequisite for social, economic and political stability.”
He, however, said the best defence against disease outbreaks is strong health systems, built on primary health care and community engagement, with universal health coverage as the goal.
“Health is not a cost; it’s an investment in a healthier, safer, fairer and more sustainable future,” the WHO chief said.
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