Khairy: WHO Must Avoid Repeat Of Vaccine Inequity With Antivirals, Children Vaccination

Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, in delivering Malaysia’s statement at the WHO Western Pacific’s regional committee meeting, says Covid-19 vaccine inequity was “one of the greatest moral failings in humanity’s collective response to the pandemic”.

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 25 — Malaysia today told the World Health Organization (WHO) that global inequity problems with Covid-19 vaccines must not be seen again with the distribution of antiviral treatment and children’s coronavirus inoculation.

Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, in delivering the country’s statement at the 72nd WHO’s Western Pacific regional committee meeting in Japan, suggested a move towards a new equitable plan of distribution for antivirals to avoid a repeat of Covid-19 vaccine distribution inequity.

“Malaysia feels vaccine inequity has been one of the greatest moral failings in humanity’s collective response to the pandemic,” Khairy said.

“When the world was told vaccines would be available, there was great hope for global solidarity with the establishment of the COVAX facility. Yet to date, its delivery has been far short of what was planned. It has been, in large part, a great disappointment with bilateral deals taking precedence over international collaboration and global solidarity,” he added, referring to the United Nations-backed programme that aimed to ensure equal access for all countries to Covid-19 vaccines.

“Malaysia calls on this inequity to be addressed immediately with more equitable distribution, dose delivery swapping, in which Malaysia is willing to participate, in technology transfer, and in investments to manufacture vaccines in many more sites around the world.

“We hope this inequity will not repeat itself with the latest antiviral treatments that are being developed and Covid-19 vaccines for children.”

According to global tracker Our World In Data, just about 5 per cent of Africa’s total population have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, compared to 41 per cent in Asia and 65 per cent in the European Union, even as multiple countries, including Malaysia, have begun rolling out booster vaccines or third doses.

Khairy further expressed support for the WHO director-general’s call for an international agreement on pandemic response, though he said the agreement must not just be inclusive and accountable, it must also be equitable and transparent.

“Inclusive may mean we were invited for a conversation. But equitable means we all enjoy the fruits of the discussion in timely and equitable measure. Accountable may mean we are all represented here, but transparent means we have sight on all deliverables, deals, and data,” Khairy said, adding the need to share best practices in the use of technology.

“Many of us have developed applications using artificial intelligence for contact tracing, quarantine facilitation, digital proof of vaccinations, and testing. Malaysia has our MySejahtera application that has been a ubiquitous public health tool during the pandemic.

“Many other states have developed their own. This is a relatively low hanging fruit for the best elements of our technological response to be created, integrated, and white-labelled for any country that may want to adopt such technologies,” Khairy said.

Malaysia also placed an emphasis on the “silent” mental health pandemic. Khairy said Malaysia is “no exception” in the deterioration of mental health, especially among young people due to lockdowns and movement restrictions.

He said this, in addition to unemployment and financial insecurity, led to a spike in the number of people seeking mental health support globally.

“In conjunction with the Mental Health Day this year, Malaysia launched a strategic plan for mental health, highlighting intersectoral collaboration and crisis preparedness in addressing mental health issues, including suicide and suicidal behaviours as well as surveillance for early detection of cases that will allow for proper monitoring and timely intervention.

“I wish to reiterate the importance of mental health as it inevitably affects physical health, and it is vital for us to share this message to the public to raise awareness,” he said.

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