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COVID-19 vaccine: UN endorses resolution

a covid-19 blood test tube with result of positive on yellow background the X has clipping path and can be removed. COVID-19 testing concept.Member states of the United Nations (UN) have endorsed a resolution addressing the COVID-19 pandemic – including addressing accessibility of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The COVID-19 outbreak mushroomed into a pandemic earlier this year, with more than two million people at the time of writing having become infected with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). More commonly referred to simply as the coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2 causes COVID-19, a disease which has led to tens of thousands of deaths and resulted in profound socioeconomic disruption the world over at a level unparalleled in recent memory when it comes to issues of global health. 

In the fight against COVID-19, the concept of a COVID-19 vaccine is being seen by many as the light at the end of the tunnel. However, no such vaccine currently exists. A resolution (accessible here) – drafted by Mexico and adopted by the 193 UN member states – highlights the need for “international cooperation to ensure global access to medicines, vaccines and medical equipment to face COVID-19.” 

The need for a COVID-19 vaccine is highlighted in the resolution. The document “requests the Secretary-General [António Guterres], in close collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other relevant agencies of the United Nations System, including international financial institutions, to identify and recommend options, including approaches to rapidly scaling manufacturing and strengthening supply chains, that promote and ensure fair, transparent, equitable, efficient and timely access to and distribution of preventive tools, laboratory testing, reagents and supporting materials, essential medical supplies, new diagnostics, drugs and future COVID-19 vaccines, with a view to making them available to all those in need, in particular in developing countries.” 

The resolution also “encourages member states to work in partnership with all relevant stakeholders to increase research and development funding for vaccines and medicines, leverage digital technologies, and strengthen scientific international cooperation necessary to combat COVID-19 and to bolster coordination, including with the private sector, towards rapid development, manufacturing and distribution of diagnostics, antiviral medicines, personal protective equipment and vaccines, adhering to the objectives of efficacy, safety, equity, accessibility, and affordability.” 

It further “calls upon member states and other relevant stakeholders to immediately take steps to prevent, within their respective legal frameworks, speculation and undue stockpiling that may hinder access to safe, effective and affordable essential medicines, vaccines, personal protective equipment and medical equipment as may be required to effectively address COVID-19.” 

Of note in the resolution is its emphasis upon “the crucial leading role played by the World Health Organization.” This is of note owing to the recent decision by U.S. President Donald Trump to suspend U.S. funding to the WHO, alleging mismanagement of the public health crisis. The move was roundly condemned. 

A COVID-19 vaccine is being looked to as a vital public health utility. While one is not yet available, making provisions for accessibility and laying the groundwork for collaboration is vital. As such, the resolution and its endorsement can be seen as a positive step.

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