Moon joins other leaders calling for equal access to Covid-19 vaccine

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Moon joins other leaders calling for equal access to Covid-19 vaccine

President Moon Jae-in speaks at the opening ceremony of the National Assembly in western Seoul on Thursday. [NEWS1]

President Moon Jae-in speaks at the opening ceremony of the National Assembly in western Seoul on Thursday. [NEWS1]

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and seven other world leaders called for equitable global access to coronavirus vaccines in an opinion piece published Thursday.
 
"As the world is still in the midst of the deadliest pandemic of the 21st century, with the number of cases still rising at the global level, immunization is our best chance of ending the pandemic at home and across the world — but only if all countries get access to the vaccine,” they wrote in a rare joint opinion piece published in the Washington Post.  
 
The op-ed entitled "The international community must guarantee equal global access to a Covid-19 vaccine" was co-authored by the leaders of Canada, Ethiopia, New Zealand, Spain, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden and Tunisia.  
 
The eight leaders stressed that the pandemic disproportionately affects populations living in poverty and in vulnerable situations.
 
“We cannot allow access to vaccines to increase inequalities within or between countries — whether low-, middle- or high-income,” they wrote.
 
There are nearly 200 potential Covid-19 vaccine candidates currently at different stages of development, the leaders noted, writing, “there is hope that soon one or more will prove to be both safe and effective.”  
 
"What happens next is equally important," the piece continued. "This cannot be a race with one winner. When one or more vaccines are successful, it must be a win for all of us.”
 
The op-ed describes vaccines as the “most powerful public health tool” but also acknowledges that manufacturing enough vaccines to cover the global population will take time.
 
Calling worldwide cooperation “paramount” for developing a new vaccine, Moon and his coauthors cautioned that “manufacturing and distributing it while leaving no one behind will truly put global cooperation to the test.”
 
Thus, the leaders argued for guidelines to ensure the vaccines are distributed “according to a set of transparent, equitable and scientifically sound principles.”  
 
They called for implementing an organized global flow of vaccines through a “strong multilateral mechanism ensuring mutual trust, transparency and accountability,” guided by the World Health Organization (WHO) and “based on needs rather than means” to prioritize saving lives and protecting health systems.
 
The leaders recognized existing regional and global initiatives and organizations aiming to secure vaccine availability, such as the Covid-19 Vaccine Global Access (Covax) Facility, the Vaccine Alliance, or Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the International Vaccine Institute (IVI).  
 
In a speech to the National Assembly on Thursday, Moon stressed Korea’s “spirit of solidarity and cooperation” in the global fight against the coronavirus pandemic, noting it has shared Covid-19 testing kits, masks and medical equipment with many countries and “is cooperating across the borders in the development of vaccines and treatments.”
 
Last week, the Korean government allocated 197 billion won ($163.5 million) to support vaccine and treatment development and research for Covid-19. The Ministry of Health and Welfare said that 49 billion won of this amount is specifically allocated for development of vaccines.  
 
The eight leaders in the op-ed underscored that a “successfully managed vaccine distribution will also be a cornerstone of strengthening multilateralism for the future,” and called on other countries “to commit to contributing to an equitable distribution” of the Covid-19 vaccine.  
 
Along with Moon, the opinion piece was co-authored by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez Pérez-Castejón, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven and Tunisian Prime Minister Elyes Fakhfakh.
 
BY SARAH KIM   [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]
 

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