Regional Covid response needs more from Australia

Village in PNG. Burnet Institute

Chair of Pacific Friends of Global Health and Burnet’s Director and CEO, Professor Brendan Crabb AC calls for greater Australian commitment to COVAX.

Pacific Friends issued the following release today:

Pacific Friends of Global Health welcomes the news that the Australian Government has pledged an additional 40 million COVID-19 vaccines for the Indo-Pacific region.

Australia has now promised a total of 60 million vaccines by the end of 2022.

The announcement was made at a virtual COVID-19 Leaders’ Summit, convened by US President Joe Biden, as part of a push from the US to see 70 per cent of the world’s population vaccinated within a year.

Chair of Pacific Friends and Director and CEO of Burnet Institute, Professor Brendan Crabb AC said:

“The Biden Leaders’ Summit signalled that the world is perhaps finally beginning to fully appreciate the importance and urgency of ending COVID for every country, not just the most wealthy.

“In this spirit, Australia has taken another hugely welcome and important step to ensure that our neighbours in the Indo-Pacific will get access to a safe, and effective COVID19 vaccine.

“But ‘vaccines’ is not the same as ‘vaccination’. Getting vaccines delivered into the arms of those who need them will require just as big of a support effort as supplying the vaccines themselves.

“PNG is a strong case in point where delivery is turning out to be an even bigger barrier than supply. While Australia has made strong regional commitments to help in this regard there is much more to do here.

“We also know that, especially with the Delta variant, vaccines are crucial but not enough. They are one of multiple lines of defence that are needed to fight this virus.

“We need to ensure that all countries are armed with effective and ample tests to identify cases and curb spread, life-saving treatments such as oxygen to help save the lives of those infected, sufficient PPE to keep healthcare workers safe, and strong health care systems to be able to manage ongoing outbreaks and ensure that delivered vaccines can get from the tarmac into arms.

“Global cooperation is key, and the mechanism to rapidly deliver these tools – the Access to COVID Tools (ACT) Accelerator – already exists. This groundbreaking collaboration is working with governments, scientists, global health organisations, manufacturers and more to accelerate access to these tools for countries who can’t procure them themselves. But it is dismally underfunded, and Australia’s commitments are well below our counterparts in the US, UK, Canada and more.

“We urge the Australian Government to make a fair-share commitment of $250 million to the ACT Accelerator’s vaccines arm, COVAX. We also call on them to commit a further $170 million to the mechanism’s urgent appeal to scale up access to tests, treatments, equipment and more to respond to the spread of Delta.

“Fighting this pandemic requires using every tool in the toolkit. Without that, millions more people around the world will become ill with this virus, millions more will die, and the whole world remains vulnerable to new emerging variants and the health, economic and social impacts that flow from this ever present threat. The longer we delay action, the further away the end to this pandemic gets from us. It’s not only the right thing to do, but it’s the smart thing to do.”

/Public Release. This material comes from the originating organization/author(s)and may be of a point-in-time nature, edited for clarity, style and length. The views and opinions expressed are those of the author(s).View in full here.