UN chief says will take COVID-19 vaccine publicly, calls it his ‘moral obligation’

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December 10, 2020 11:04 AM

Guterres reiterated his call for a COVID-19 vaccine to be a global public good available to everywhere and particularly, available in Africa.

Guterres said there is an "enormous effort" by several countries to ensure vaccines for their own populations. (File image)

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said that he intends to take the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available and he will do so publicly, asserting that vaccination for him is a “moral obligation” towards the whole community.

“Of course, I intend to receive the vaccine when it becomes available for me in whatever the situation that will be justified for that. And, obviously, I will have no doubt in doing it publicly,” Guterres said on Wednesday.

The 71-year-old UN chief was responding to a question during a press briefing at the UN Headquarters on whether he would publicly take the COVID-19 vaccine when it’s available to him.

“I encourage everybody that has access to the vaccine to be vaccinated, because it is a service, not only that we provide to ourselves. Each one of us being vaccinated provides a service to the whole community because we are no longer spreading… there is no risk of spreading the disease. So, vaccination is for me a moral obligation in relation to all of us,” he said.

His remarks came during the hybrid press conference with Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat following the Fourth UN-AU Annual Conference.

Guterres reiterated his call for a COVID-19 vaccine to be a global public good available to everywhere and particularly, available in Africa.

“Most African countries lack the financing to adequately respond to the crisis, due in part to declining demand and prices of their commodity exports,” he said.

In response to a question that while floodgates to COVID-19 vaccines are opening in rich countries, Africa might not begin to see vaccines until the second quarter of 2021, he said: “It’s true we are seeing vaccine nationalism moving with full speed.”

He added that if Africa is not properly supported, “we will not be able to fight the pandemic anywhere effectively.

He said the only way to ensure that the vaccines reach Africa timely is to make sure that the COVAX initiative is financed and gets the USD 4.2 [billion] it needs in the next two months “to make sure that vaccines approved by the World Health Organization can be distributed in Africa sooner rather than later.”

COVAX is a global initiative aimed at working with vaccine manufacturers to provide countries worldwide equitable access to safe and effective vaccines, once they are licensed and approved.

Guterres said there is an “enormous effort” by several countries to ensure vaccines for their own populations.

“But COVAX is working hard. There are several vaccines in the pipeline for COVAX, and it is perfectly possible to deliver if the financing is guaranteed,” he said.

The UK, Bahrain and Canada have approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine within the past week.

The US Food and Drug Administration is expected to authorise the use of the vaccine as early as this weekend after its own study concluded the two-dose vaccine provided benefits even after just the first injection cutting the risk of getting COVID-19 by about half.

The Pfizer-BioNTech was found to be 95 per cent effective after the second dose.

The European Medicines Agency has said a decision on either the Pfizer-BioNTech shot or Moderna Inc.’s vaccine could come by the end of this month.

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