UN adopts resolution urging equitable access to vaccines

The UN Security Council gave unanimous approval Friday to a resolution calling for improved access to Covid-19 vaccines in conflict-hit or impoverished countries, diplomats said.

It was the second resolution on the pandemic passed by the council since it began a year ago.

“Voting for vaccine equity is important and we appreciate that,” said World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in welcoming the vote. 

“But the concrete steps should be taken, and waive IP to increase production, coverage of vaccine and get rid of this virus as soon as possible,” he told reporters, saying: “The UNSC can do it if there is political will.”

In a rare gesture, the resolution was co-sponsored by all 15 members of the council, diplomats said.

“We are all facing the same threat, the same pandemic and international cooperation and multilateral action is needed,” one diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

“This resolution could be a step in a good direction.”

The resolution required just a week of negotiations to draft, and its passage suggests the international community is moving towards unity that has been scarce since the health crisis began.

It also hints at a warming of relations at the UN between the United States and China since President Joe Biden took office in January.

Thorny issues remain, such as the origin of the virus in China and how transparent China has been in its explanations of the outbreak.

“Now, especially because of the changes in the US, I don’t see this issue to be as controversial as it was in the spring,” said another diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.

He was referring to the arrival of Biden and a change from the harsh anti-China rhetoric of Donald Trump, who spoke of the “China virus” or “kung flu” and said China was to blame for the once in a century global health crisis. 

Asked if this new spirit of unity will last, the second diplomat said: “We will see.”

– Focus on conflict zones –

The first pandemic resolution passed by the council, in July of last year, needed more than three months of back and forth negotiations before it finally won approval.

The process was agonizingly slow because of disputes between the US and China. That resolution called for ceasefires in war zones to facilitate the fight against the pandemic.

The new resolution approved Friday stresses “the urgent need for solidarity, equity, and efficacy” in fighting the pandemic in countries with limited access to vaccines.

The resolution “invites donation of vaccine doses from developed economies and all those in a position to do so to low- and middle-income countries and other countries in need.”

It also “calls for the strengthening of national and multilateral approaches and international cooperation… in order to facilitate equitable and affordable access to Covid-19 vaccines in armed conflict situations, post-conflict situations and complex humanitarian emergencies.”

The UN says some 160 million people live in such conditions.

This new draft urges Secretary General Antonio Guterres to carry out frequent assessments of obstacles to vaccine access.

It also calls on member countries to take measures to prevent speculation in and hoarding of vaccines so as to ensure access to inoculation, especially in conflict zones.

by Philippe RATER