2nd Plenary Meeting (Resumed) - Special Session of General Assembly in response to Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Pandemic

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14-Dec-2020 03:00:15
Cautiously optimistic about COVID-19 vaccine, speakers in General Assembly say multilateral approaches key for ensuring unhindered, equitable distribution.

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Delegates struck a cautiously hopeful note as the General Assembly completed its special session dedicated to the COVID‑19 pandemic, while stressing the need for multilateral approaches to distributing vaccines and mitigating the pandemic’s wide-ranging fallout.

“Progress on the vaccine has rekindled hope,” said Bahrain’s delegate, noting that Bahrain is the second country in the world to approve its use. Bahrain authorized access to the vaccine for all citizens and residents through a national vaccination plan, he observed.

India’s representative said that his country will use its vaccine production and delivery capacity to help all humanity fight this crisis. It also will help all countries enhance their cold chain and storage capacities to deliver vaccines, he said, pointing out that the crisis has exposed gaps in global cooperation and the governance structures of multilateral organizations. India has a pipeline of vaccines in different stages of development, he said, noting that vaccine candidates COVAXIN and ZyCov-D are under Phase II and Phase III trials. As well, the Serum Institute of India is already conducting final testing of the Oxford University-AstraZeneca Covishield vaccine.

During the third day of the special session’s general debate, many delegates stressed that broad vaccine access is essential in order to rid the world of COVID‑19. The speaker for Mongolia underscored the importance of affordable, unhindered and equitable access to vaccines by all countries, including landlocked developing States.

Agreeing, Chile’s delegate emphasized that access to the vaccine is key. She recalled that her Government has established an inter-ministerial committee and confirmed its participation in the COVID‑19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) Facility, a mechanism established by the World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure equitable distribution worldwide. Chile has also taken steps to provide its population with access to the best options for available vaccines, including through participation in clinical trials and by securing preferential prices and supplies. Global collaboration is the right approach, she added, welcoming initiatives that will enable the international community to respond to pandemics and similar events in the future.

In this context, speakers also warned against protectionism in the fight against COVID‑19 and spotlighted the pandemic’s effects on the multilateral agenda.

“The fight against COVID‑19 should not lead to the severance of cooperation,” said the representative of Belarus. He called for measures to pre-empt the exploitation and stockpiling of personal protective and medical equipment and for States to cooperate in this regard.

Similarly, Costa Rica’s delegate said the right to life and health cannot be subject to financial or political considerations. Her country has joined with a group of States to launch an initiative to share knowledge in the fight against COVID‑19, which will help ensure that vaccines and treatments are accessible to people around the world. She called on States to refrain from using arguments such as national security in order to justify keeping vaccines and other means to combat the illness as “trade secrets”.

Sudan’s representative said the COVID‑19 vaccine must be made accessible to poorer States at a reasonable cost that reflects the current situation. As such, he called for collective initiatives to “rebuild on the ruins” left by the devastating pandemic that has compounded challenges faced by transitional governments.

Also speaking during the general debate were Ministers, senior Government officials and permanent representatives from El Salvador, Syria, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Panama, Namibia, Equatorial Guinea, Uruguay, Gambia, Guatemala and Armenia.

Civil society representatives from the International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care, Inc., United Cities and Local Governments and the Commonwealth Medical Trust also addressed the Assembly. At the outset, a youth delegate from Moldova shared his experience of the pandemic. The Assembly also observed a minute of silent reflection at the close of the session.

The representatives of Azerbaijan, Turkey and Armenia spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The Assembly will reconvene at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, 15 December to take up reports of its Sixth Committee (Legal).

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