Jakarta (ANTARA) - Addressing world leaders at this year’s United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), Indonesian President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) highlighted an issue that has remained a prime concern for almost all nations today: the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When will people be free from the pandemic?” was the question that the President put before world leaders attending the 76thUNGA in New York City last week.

The same question most likely came to everyone’s mind, given the devastating impact the pandemic has had on the world in nearly two years.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the virus has claimed more than 4.7 million deaths. In addition, it has pummeled economies globally.

Hence, in its national statement presented at the UNGA, Indonesia emphasized the importance of cooperation and collaboration to accelerate the global effort to end the pandemic and its impact, both in terms of health and economic recovery.

"Assessing the global developments to date, many things must be done together. First, we have to give hope that the pandemic will be resolved quickly, fairly, and evenly. We know that no one is safe until everyone is," the President affirmed.

According to the President, the ability and pace of all countries in dealing with COVID-19—specifically the implementation of the vaccination program—has been highly disproportionate.

Referring to the statement of UN Secretary General António Guterres regarding the wide gap in access to vaccines, Widodo alluded to how people in most of the wealthier countries have been immunized, while over 90 percent of Africa’s population has not even received one dose.

Of the nearly 6 billion doses of the coronavirus vaccine administered worldwide, only two percent have been distributed in Africa compared to almost 80 percent in high- and upper middle-income countries, he pointed out.

Such data showcases the deep inequalities in the global pandemic response, he said. In addition, discrimination towards certain types of vaccines has also widened inequalities and created uneven recovery, he added.

"Politicization and discrimination against vaccines is still occurring. They have to be resolved with real attempts," the President asserted.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, as co-chair of the COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC) Engagement Group, has voiced two solutions to address vaccine inequity: increasing production and implementing a dose-sharing mechanism.

"Vaccine producers must be able to increase their production capacity. It is time for developing countries to be included in the global vaccine supply chain," the Foreign Minister said while delivering an online press statement on Wednesday (September 29, 2021).

Increasing the production or supply of vaccines is considered an important effort to meet the target of vaccinating 70 percent of the world's population by mid-2022, she noted.

To achieve this target, the WHO has said that the world needs at least 11 billion doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, she pointed out.

Related news: Global cooperation crucial in fight against COVID-19

"When we talk about the vaccine supply chain, I mention that the establishment of an mRNA vaccine manufacturing center that has been carried out in South Africa should be replicated in other regions to accelerate the increase in vaccine production," Marsudi said.

In addition to seeking an increase in production, Indonesia has also continued to encourage the mechanism of dose-sharing between countries with excess doses of vaccines and low- and middle-income countries, she added.

Marsudi emphasized the importance of countries that have excess vaccine doses sharing their doses more transparently, conveying delivery times, and avoiding sharing of vaccine doses that have expired.

During a recent meeting with the Vaccine Alliance (Gavi) Board and the co-chairs of the COVAX AMC Engagement Group, Marsudi also expressed concern about the trend of vaccine discrimination, following entry bans imposed by several countries on cross-border travelers even though they had received vaccines approved for emergency use by the WHO.

There are also countries that are allowing foreign nationals to enter their territory as long as they have received a booster that is recognized by their authority, she pointed out.

“During the meeting, I asked WHO, Gavi, and the COVAX Facility to make a joint effort to prevent this vaccine discrimination. The Gavi Board is also very worried about this discrimination and will try to deal with it together with WHO," Marsudi said.

Indonesia has also urged the international community to strengthen the global health security system by improving the role of the WHO to prevent future pandemics, she added.

In this case, a new mechanism is needed to establish global health resilience—in terms of funding, vaccines, medicines, medical services, and health workers—quickly and evenly across all countries, she said.

“This pandemic has showed us the importance of international cooperation,” Marsudi said.

Related news: Indonesia ready to become vaccine hub for Asia-Pacific: Marsudi

Editor: Rahmad Nasution
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