UN rights body calls on states for fair distribution of Covid-19 vaccines

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Equitable, affordable, timely and universal access for all countries to vaccines in response to the Covid-19 pandemic have been tackled by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR) on Thursday (March 10).

The international community stands at a crossroads and needs to “choose the right path” as the world entered the third year of the Covid-19 pandemic, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet told the council during the panel discussion.

“The world has been profoundly fortunate to have had effective Covid-19 vaccines developed at an unprecedented pace. Science has saved millions of lives and livelihoods. But we have failed to administer the vaccines in a fair and equitable manner,” Ms. Bachelet said.

“The pandemic’s finish line is still out of sight. A false narrative that it may be over is arising in some countries with high vaccination rates, and where the effects of the Omicron variant have been relatively mild. Yet, low vaccination rates in many countries continue to create ideal conditions for new variants to emerge. So they pose a threat to everyone.”

Ms. Bachelet stressed that “delayed vaccination may mean a lost decade for development… Countries will become less resilient to fresh crises and shocks. And discontent at the human rights consequences of pandemic-related measures has the potential to escalate societal tensions and violence, which are growing around the world.”

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), said during the panel discussion that while more than six million people had lost their lives to Covid-19, these figures seriously underrepresented the reality of this crisis.

“While almost ten billion vaccine doses had been administered around the globe, their distribution told a story of inequality: almost 70 per cent of vaccinations were in high income countries, while less than 14 per cent of people in low-income countries had received a single dose,” The WHO chief said.

“Countries with high vaccination rates are reopening, while others with low vaccination rates and low testing rates have been left behind, and the result is more than 60,000 deaths per week along with an increased risk of the emergence of new virus variants,” he warned. (Source: The Straits Times)

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