Remarks by Abdullah Shahid, President of the General Assembly, at the opening segment of the High-Level Thematic Debate entitled "Galvanizing Momentum for Universal Vaccination".
Thank you for joining this High-Level Thematic Debate on Galvanizing Momentum for Universal
Today, we gather here at a time when a fellow member state, Ukraine has been attacked. This
military operation undermines global security and stability, and is inconsistent with the principles
of the Charter of the United Nations.
As I had said in my statement on Ukraine yesterday, the use of force and coercion has no place in
the 21st century. I call on all Member States to uphold their obligations under international law
and international humanitarian law.
It is time for an immediate ceasefire, deescalation of tensions, exercise of maximum restraint and
a firm return to diplomacy and dialogue.
As we get to grips with this new situation, we already have the COVID crisis that continues to
rage in many parts of the world.
Since the outbreak of the virus, we have come far. Human ingenuity has ensured that a record
number of vaccines were developed in the shortest possible time.
Yet, while a handful of us are enjoying the fruits of our common labor, the vast majority are still
sitting and waiting for the elusive jab.
Although the world is expected to have enough COVID-19 vaccine doses by mid-2022 to
vaccinate 70% of the world's population with three doses, uncertainties abound.
These include the possible need for variant-specific vaccines, changes to vaccination policies,
country preference for some products over others, the programmatic complexity of managing
multiple products, and the need for better intelligence on country-level planning and execution.
While large volumes of vaccines have recently become available, in most cases the increase in
volumes are expected to create challenges in absorption capacity in resource-poor settings.
This includes the capacity to receive, store, distribute, record and administer vaccines including
wastage due to lack of trained health personnel or vaccination centers.
The original goal of COVAX was to achieve fair and equitable vaccine access to all the
However, many high-income countries entered into direct contractual arrangements with vaccine
suppliers, bypassing the COVAX mechanism, and pharmaceutical companies did not prioritize
and deliver according to their contractual obligations with COVAX, seriously reducing its supply
and making it highly unpredictable.
Moreover, high-coverage countries began donating directly to their low-coverage and low-income
counterparts, bypassing COVAX.
Indemnity and liability-related conditions also added barriers to the vaccine access for the most
Our collective health security depends on the health security of all populations wherever they are
- SIDS, LDCs or LLDCs or whatever status they may have in individual countries, including as
refugees or as internally displaced persons.
Let me be clear: vaccine inequity is immoral, and it is impractical.
It is not okay that 27 countries have vaccinated less than 10% of their populations while others
are rolling out boosters or lifting restrictions entirely.
It is a failure on us, as an international community, that over 10 billion vaccine doses have been
administered as of the middle of this month – more than enough to provide at least one dose to
every citizen on this planet – and yet 83% of the population of the African Union has not received
a single dose.
This very inequity that is leaving billions of people exposed and at-risk is jeopardizing all of the
development progress we have made.
Essentially, the Decade of Action has turned into a Decade of Recovery.
How long before another variant emerges? How long before our vaccines prove ineffective? Are
we really willing to go back to square one and start all over again, because we could not share?
We can and we must do better than this.
COVID-19 is precisely the type of challenge the United Nations was built for. If we are to shore
up multilateral support and demonstrate to our 8 billion constituents, the value of global cooperation then there is no better test than the COVID crisis that has affected the entirety of the
As a President of Hope, I remain convinced that we all want the same thing: to end this pandemic,
not only for ourselves but for our neighbors and friends. Only then will we see our economies
lifted, only then will we see tourism flourish, only then will we be able to live life without the
threat of restrictions.
If the pandemic has shown us anything, it is the importance of collective action – that our strength
lies in solidarity.
This was reiterated during the General Debate of the 76th session, and most recently, by the
Member States who joined my New Year's Resolution to stand for vaccine equity.
And the irony is, we have the very tools and resources to do just that.
We have the knowledge and know-how to fix supply chain issues and to reach far flung locations.
We must fortify that now with political will.
Let us be resolute in our commitment for vaccine equity. Let us resolve to share, resolve to support,
resolve to distribute, resolve to deliver, and resolve to achieve universal access.
This means committing to greater ambition and action, including eliminating all potential barriers
to timely access.
This means increasing multilateral, multi-stakeholder engagement towards greater international
cooperation, to promote greater synergy within existing strategies.
This means prioritizing at-risk populations, as well as marginalized groups, such as women or
And this means providing support to all countries, particularly low- and middle-income countries,
to ensure access to quality COVID-19 vaccines at affordable prices, including through local
production of vaccines.
We cannot rejoice until all of us, the Member States, work together to meet the vaccine targets,
and finally bring this pandemic to an end.
And we cannot achieve that without fulfilling our promise to vaccinate the entire world.
Join me in showing your support and let us deliver on this promise.
I thank you. "