Movement of people should not be curtailed by type of vaccine taken

President Ali tells world leaders, as countries incrementally reopen borders

WITH “vaccination for entry” measures being implemented in several parts of the world, many countries have been moving to recognise only those vaccines that were fully approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

In his inaugural address to the United Nations’ General Assembly on Thursday, President Dr. Irfaan Ali warned that this route could hurt the global efforts to end the polarisation of access to vaccines.

“The access to vaccines saw the world polarised,” President Ali told his fellow world leaders, adding: “We must not now hurt our efforts at ending this polarisation of access to vaccines by implementing measures that divide us and curtail our movement based on the type of vaccines our people took.”

Instead, the Head of State said that the world’s efforts should be directed towards addressing vaccine hesitancy, and promoting full vaccination of all eligible citizens of the world.

“Millions took the vaccines which were available at a time of much uncertainty, and they are the unsung heroes. They must not now be the subject of restrictions based on the vaccines they took,” President Ali posited.

These restrictions are likely to affect thousands of Guyanese who have been immunised using the Russian-made Sputnik V jabs, which has not been fully approved by WHO, but continues to be administered in over 60 countries, largely owing to impressive real-world results.

Recognising that the peoples of our planet are living under a cloud of uncertainty, it is important for countries to unite and create conditions that will ease fear, erase doubt, and give hope.

Dr. Ali believes that UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, described the global situation well when he said: “the pandemic has demonstrated our collective failure to come together and make joint decisions for the common good, even in the face of an immediate, life-threatening global emergency.”

The Guyanese Head of State, in his strongly-worded statement, outlined that even after 76 years since the founding of the United Nations, the world is more driven by “selfish national interests” rather than the collective well-being of “our one planet and our one humanity.”

Dr. Ali reminded that nations will ever be able to survive on its own.

“Those, who at the advent of the pandemic concentrated on making themselves secure, now understand they will not be safe until we are all safe, because the virus knows not – and cares not – about ethnicity, age or geography. It will not heed borders or be stopped by walls,” President Ali noted.

To this end, President Ali reiterated his call for increased resources to be made available to states on the basis of their vulnerabilities “and not only based on the misleading measure of per capita income.”

He further contended that if those essential measures are not implemented, growth in developing countries will not be restored nor will economic and social policies be realigned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)s outlined in Agenda 2030.

“The repercussions will be felt by the rich nations because developing countries are markets for the goods and services of the industrialised nations and the source of their raw materials. Poor countries cannot buy unless they have the means, and they cannot produce unless they have the capacity,” Dr. Ali reasoned.

He maintained that while poor and vulnerable countries will suffer longer, and more intensely from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, rich countries have not been spared.

UPENDED GROWTH
“Within developing countries, the pandemic has upended growth, increased unemployment, and weakened health and education systems. Education regression is now inevitable given the long period our children have been forced out of the formal classroom and the challenges which many developing countries face in delivering virtual education,” President Ali highlighted.

He said that given these problems, economic recovery is essential to returning developing countries to the path of attaining the SDGs.

“Such recovery will be painfully elongated and slow, unless there is international support in the form of debt rescheduling, debt service moratoriums, provision of soft resources to reboot economies,” President Ali said.

In this regard, the government welcomed the summit on COVID-19 that was hosted by United States President, Joe Biden.

“We are pleased that it resulted, not only in commitments for joint global action, but also in the allocation of resources to achieve necessary and agreed objectives,” Dr. Ali said.

Further, the Guyanese leader said that his government was pleased with the meeting among the heads of the International Monetary Fund, World Bank Group, World Health Organisation, World Trade Organisation and leading vaccine manufacturing companies to discuss strategies to improve access to COVID-19 vaccines in low and lower middle-income countries and in Africa.

“My government is pleased that the heads of the international Organisations and the CEOs of the major pharmaceutical companies have formed a technical working group to exchange and coordinate information on vaccine production and deliveries,” Dr. Ali said.

He added that these are all positive developments, even though they have come after millions have died and many more millions still live under the threat of death.

CLIMATE CHANGE
Additionally, President Ali used his time at the podium to remind his counterparts that the challenges faced by small and developing countries have been exacerbated by the effects of climate change, which continues to inflict even greater destruction and rumination than the coronavirus.

Dr. Ali had previously pointed to the fact that even though small and developing countries contribute less to climate change and carbon emissions, they are the ones that face the brunt of the effects. “This is not only unfair; it is unjust,” Dr. Ali asserted.

In calling for developed countries to step up and play a greater role in the fight against climate change, President Ali referred to Guyana’s efforts as an example.

He said that even though Guyana is a net carbon sink, and the nation’s forests absorb far more carbon than is produced from human activity, the government has not “folded its hands and sat back” in satisfaction that it has done enough.

As a matter of fact, the Head of State said that Guyana continues to contribute meaningfully to reducing global emissions and to the de-carbonisation of the world’s economy, “even though our country is now an oil and gas producer.”

“In these circumstances, we feel we have the right to insist on a fair system of burden-sharing,” President Ali maintained.

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