Statement at the UNSC Briefing on Access to COVID-19 Vaccines
Statement12 April 2022
Thank you, President.
I want to thank the briefers for providing us with updated analysis and insights on scale of the challenge remaining implementation of COVID-19 related measures in fragile and conflict-affected contexts.
President, we remain firmly of the opinion that no one is safe from COVID-19 until all of us are safe.
Commendable progress has been made towards the WHO target of a global vaccination rate of 70% by mid-2022. But significant and persistent gaps in coverage remain. This is a risk we cannot afford to ignore.
Addressing very low vaccination rates in conflict or post conflict contexts must be prioritized, and flexible creative solutions must be applied. The creation of the COVAX Humanitarian Buffer was a positive move, and COVAX has indeed been responsible for the delivery of significant volumes of vaccine doses to countries such as the DRC, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Ethiopia.
COVAX is to be commended for its continued ability to adapt and respond to evolving needs, and I welcome the emphasis placed in the current strategy on delivery, including but not limited to humanitarian and fragile contexts. Access needs to be prioritized for humanitarian actors, including WHO, UNICEF, the ICRC and various civil society actors with the relevant expertise to ensure the doses that are available can make it into the arms of those that need them.
In recent months and in general, the international community has responded well to the call for dose sharing. However the challenge we face in 2022 goes far beyond tackling supply issues. We need to restore, rebuild, and supplement health systems. In particular, we will need to concentrate on capacities for logistics, transport, and health service delivery. These need to be enhanced rapidly and at scale in fragile settings.
International humanitarian law requires that parties to armed conflict protect medical personnel so that they can administer vaccinations and provide medical care without discrimination to the wounded, the needy, and the sick. As of 8th April, WHO has reported 160 attacks on health care facilities, workers, and transport globally in 2022, including over 100 attacks in Ukraine.
We must condemn in the strongest possible terms any and all incidents where health care workers, or health care facilities are targeted by any party to a conflict.
The Council must continue to ensure the implementation of Security Council Resolution 2565 and we welcome this opportunity to take stock of the progress made to date and the many challenges that remain on the ground. It is in all of our interests to ensure that as many people as possible are safely vaccinated against this all too easily transmissible disease, which continues to pose a grave threat to lives, health and well-being worldwide.
We supported the Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire at the onset of this pandemic and we reiterate that support now.
Ireland has always promoted the importance and necessity of equitable access to vaccines and I reaffirm our commitment to that today. Alongside strengthening the capacities of health systems to deliver vaccinations and other essential health services, we must tackle the wealth of misinformation that has been allowed to build up around vaccines-which, as we have heard here today, is hampering the efforts of healthcare and humanitarian workers to prevent and treat COVID-19 cases.
It is imperative that we re-focus our efforts on meeting the WHO target of 70% global vaccination later this year lest we find ourselves once again, debating the best counter-measures to be taken against a more aggressive variant of COVID-19. To do this we must strengthen health systems, and accelerate our work in conflict, post-conflict and humanitarian settings.