Opinion Editorial on vaccinations and the European Union’s contribution to the COVAX facility
Covid-19 has killed 2.5 million people so far and caused the biggest economic recession since World War II. In the face of such adversity, are national solutions the best answer? The European Union (EU) does not think so.
At the G7 Leaders virtual meeting (19th February 2021), the EU announced its commitment to double its financial contribution to the COVAX Global Facility – from 500 million EUR to one billion EUR – to increase fair and equitable access for all countries to safe and effective vaccines. EU Member States, under the “Team Europe” approach, have lent even more support: in total, Europeans have provided more than 2.2 billion EUR to COVAX.
The President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said, “Last year, as part of our Coronavirus Global Response, we committed to ensuring universal access to vaccines everywhere on Earth, for everyone who would need them. COVAX is best placed to help us reach this goal. This is why we decided to double the European Commission's contribution to COVAX, to € one billion. Because we will only be safe if the whole world is safe.”
What is the COVAX Facility? It is a joint effort of different organisations (GAVI, CEPI, WHO, UNICEF) to purchase at least two billion vaccine doses by the end of 2021, part of which is also available for an upper-middle-income country such as Maldives.
Maldives will soon receive its first vaccine doses through COVAX. The government of Mldives has set an ambitious goal of vaccinating all of its resident population over the coming months, depending on the stocks availability. It certainly helps that at least 20% of the total population will be immunised through COVAX.
In addition to the EU and Member States’ contribution to COVAX, the EU has also provided a direct grant of one million EUR (18 million MVR) to WHO in the Maldives to scale-up and strengthen emergency response capacities. This support is instrumental notably to improve access for Covid-19 patients to isolation and intensive care units, as well as to enhance green medical waste management in selected facilities. Additional support of two million EUR (36 million MVR) will help the tourism sector recovering from the pandemic, and an additional 20 million EUR loan (360 million MVR) have been made available by the European Investment Bank.
In times of crisis, it is only natural to look down and retreat. The amazingly fast progress of vaccines is a source of hope: we can finally see some light at the end of the tunnel although maintaining social distancing and other preventive measures will remain crucial. Yet, we will only truly benefit from these ground-breaking achievements if we favour multilateralism and cooperation over nationalism and competition.
The EU and the Member States will continue to support global, rather than bilateral efforts, for research and mass production and distribution of safe COVID-19 vaccines. Leaving no one behind is not only a matter of ethics and solidarity. It is also a sound epidemiological choice as “no one is safe until everyone is safe”.
-- Joint op-ed by HE Eric Lavertu, Ambassador of France to Maldives, Rita Manella, Ambassador of Italy to Maldives, Tanja Gonggrijp, Ambassador of Netherlands to Maldives, Denis Chaibi, Ambassador of European Union to Maldives, Holger Seubert, Ambassador of Germany to Maldives, and Victor Chiujdea, Ambassador of Romania to Maldives --