I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union and its 27 Member States.
The Candidate Countries the Republic of NorthMacedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Georgia align themselves with this statement.
We thank the President of the ECOSOC for this meeting on this pertinent issue.
Looking back at the last year since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we see that it changed the world having cruel and devastating impacts on individuals, societies and economies. However, we also see that thanks to strong global cooperation and solidarity, we achieved what could not be imagined a year ago: the development and production of numerous safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines at an unprecedented pace- giving the world new hope.
But, to win the battle against this pandemic, immunisation needs to be accessible to all across the globe. Getting sufficient supply and assuring equitable access and distribution of safe, effective and affordable vaccines globally is the challenge now. This challenge as well, we can only overcome together.
From the outset, the EU has played a central role in instigating the multilateral response to ensure safe and fair access to vaccines for all, supporting the rapid development and production of vaccines against COVID-19. International solidarity has been embedded in the EU’s vaccine strategy from day one. We have made major contributions to the development of vaccines. Last year, the EU spent more than €1 billion to support research and development of vaccines and new therapies to cure COVID-19. We were amongst the first to help create COVAX and together with our Member States are contributing nearly 2.5 billion EUR from Team Europe making us one of its leading contributors. Currently, we are developing a joint EU mechanism for sharing vaccine doses with other countries, including developing countries preferably via COVAX. The EU is one of the first producers and exporters of vaccines and has already exported 80 million vaccines (produced or processed in the EU) to 42 third countries.
The EU will also provide around €100 million in humanitarian support to the COVID-19 vaccination campaigns in Africa - in cooperation with the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
And Team Europe - the EU and its Member States - has mobilised a global recovery package of over €40 billion to help our partners across the world address the immediate health emergency and humanitarian needs, strengthen health systems and support the economic recovery and social protection.
We would like to recall the recent informal session of the General Assembly on 26 March on the vaccine declaration of which we are proud to be co-initiators. This declaration found the overwhelming support of 181 UN Member co-signatories, which demonstrates that we are still united on critical questions of COVID-19 and that multilateral approaches are the right way to tackle this pandemic.
We would like to highlight the following aspects in the fight against COVID-19, which were also part of the vaccine declaration:
1. The clear commitment to multilateral approaches and the confirmation of COVAX as the key instrument to deliver on equitable and affordable access to vaccines for all and leave no one behind.
The creation of the COVAX facility early last year paved the way for ensuring equitable access worldwide to COVID-19 vaccines. COVAX is a global achievement and it works! The purchase of large amounts of different vaccines provided a stimulus to producers to invest in research and production. The delivery of safe and effective vaccines to over 100 economies - including 61 economies eligible for vaccines through the Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment, receiving the vaccines for free - is a considerable logistical success. We need to focus on the more vulnerable countries, in particular humanitarian situations.
2. Sustain approaches that work - COVAX will also in future need our all support to deliver.
To keep COVAX on track it needs continued political and financial support. Including financial contributions to the ACT-Accelerator in recovery plans - as called for in the vaccine declaration - is important for sustaining vaccination success as well as making treatment and testing accessible for all in a coordinated manner. Investing in COVAX is an economically sound investment – especially compared to the huge economic losses of a continued pandemic! Looking ahead, we also need to start thinking about the vaccination challenges in 2022/2023. Worldwide vaccination will be far from over, new variants may appear, the re-opening of the world would still be challenged due to the pandemic, and coordination remains therefore key.
3. Looking beyond the vaccines. Vaccination needs more than vaccines. Country preparedness and readiness are important steps in the vaccination process. Strong health systems including the necessary infrastructure and skilled workforce are the cornerstones not only for successful vaccinations but also for ensuring resilient systems and pandemic preparedness in the future and for building back better. Adequate information and addressing misinformation and disinformation are critical to overcome vaccine hesitancy. And we need to maintain routine immunization against other communicable diseases too!
What is most needed now, beyond developing vaccines, is the ramping up of manufacturing of vaccines and the best way of achieving that is by disseminating the technology and know-how of those who developed the vaccines through licensing arrangements. Voluntary, cooperative arrangements, including public-private partnerships, are the best guarantee of rapid expansion of safe and effective vaccines production. We welcome efforts by the new DG of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala towards such a solution. The EU stands ready to actively contribute to an open and comprehensive dialogue with all WTO Members to explore how the multilateral rules-based trading system can best support universal and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines and treatments.
Vaccination is not a race between countries but a race against the virus! No region is safe until all parts of the world are safe. Only together – with multilateral approaches, global cooperation and solidarity, we have a chance to defeat the virus everywhere.