Mr. President, Secretary-General, Fellow Leaders, Distinguished Guests;
It is an honour to join you for this discussion on vaccination. I would like to thank you for convening this event, as well as the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Director General of the World Health Organization for their unrelenting efforts in advancing vaccine equity in the face of this pandemic.
We started our national vaccination programme, “COVID-19 Dhifaau”, a little over a year ago, with the goal of vaccinating the entire population.
Through a strong national effort, we have made tremendous progress in our pandemic response, and vaccination efforts. With the assistance from COVAX, the technical support from the WHO and the UN, and the generous donations from bilateral partners, we have been able to vaccinate over 80% of the eligible population.
I recognize that the Maldives has been fortunate in our vaccination efforts. In low-income countries, only one in eight has been vaccinated. This betrays our collective commitment to ensuring that we leave no country behind. We must demonstrate the necessary leadership and political will to ensure that vaccines are truly universal. No one is safe until we are all safe.
At a time when most developing countries remain disproportionately unvaccinated, we must treat vaccines as a public good and waive COVID-19 vaccine patents as proposed in 2020 by the World Trade Organization. We must also fill a grant funding gap of US$16 billion for ACT Accelerator to fight COVID-19 in low and middle-income countries.
Vaccines alone are not enough. We need to ensure that the required equipment and trained personnel are available to support national vaccination efforts. We also must ensure that new treatments are shared equitably across the planet.
The increased costs that developing countries have had to bear through this pandemic must also be considered in our discussions of equity. We must ensure that the international financial institutions work with governments to provide the fiscal assistance needed for pandemic policy responses.
As Omicron cases begin to recede around the world, the urge to return to normalcy is expected. However, we, as leaders must ensure that we are prudent in our actions. As we have seen, until we truly achieve universal vaccination, the risk of new variants persists. Vaccine equity demands that we leave no one behind and ensure universal vaccination. The Maldives stands in solidarity with all countries and stands ready to support this effort.
I thank you.