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Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus in his virtual address to the summit Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: Vaccine equity should not be left to market forces or donors’ goodwill, the World Government Summit heard on Wednesday at Expo 2020 Dubai.

The warning came from Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, the World Health Organisation (WHO) director-general, as he virtually addressed delegates at the summit.

Ghebreyesus also shared three vital lessons WHO and health experts learned from the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Delegates listening to Dr Ghebreyesus' virtual address Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Not last pandemic

Ghebreyesus started off by saying COVID-19 will not be the last pandemic the world will experience. But how often pandemics would occur and how much damage they would cause can be prevented and properly tackled by governments, he added.

The first essential lesson learned from the pandemic, Ghebreyesus underlined, is that local production of vaccines is essential, particularly in low and middle-income countries to make them independent from market supply and geo-politics.

“[Vaccine] equity could not be left to market forces or goodwill of donors or shifting geo-policies,” explained Ghebreyesus, adding: “In many [advanced] countries, vaccine rollout has turned the tide and saved lives but more than 80 per cent of people in Africa have yet to receive the vaccine.”

Ghebreyesus said: “Expanding local production of vaccines and health products is a priority for WHO.”

Resilient health system

The second lesson, Ghebreyesus continued, is that a resilient health system is not the same as having an advanced medical care system. He explained: “Health systems have been badly disrupted. For too long too many country have invested heavily in advanced medical care but too little in public health. This resulted in having health system overwhelmed.”

Ghebreyesus underlined the backbone of public health is a robust primary health care. By ensuring this, future outbreaks can be detected and governments will have a better chance in preventing future pandemics

“The world needs an enhanced global preparation. The pandemic has highlighted the value of multilateralism. We need cooperation in the face of common threats.”

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Invest in health

The third lesson the pandemic has taught us, Ghebreyesus said, “is that health is not simply the outcome of development but the foundation of social and economic and political stability”.

He added: “It’s not a cost but an investment; world governments should invest sufficient resources for global health security.”

He concluded his speech by recognising the World Government Summit as an important platform to ensure better health for all. “We can work together for shared solutions to shared threats and have a healthier, safer, and fairer future for all.”