As a key COVAX Facility partner, UNICEF Uganda appreciates the nearly 300,000 vaccines dose-sharing by the UK Government. This generous donation by the British Government follows the pledge that G7 leaders made to vaccinate the world and end the pandemic in 2022.
The arrival of this shipment in Uganda is very timely as the demand for vaccination is currently exceeding the available supply of vaccines.
Vaccines will help us end this pandemic, but only if there’s fair access to all countries regardless of income level. It is not right that lower income countries must still wait months for access to COVID-19 vaccine doses on the scale required to save lives and protect healthcare workers and priority groups. Inequities will extend the severity of the pandemic most acutely felt by women and children, as well as the dire economic impact affecting all our lives.
We need to work together to end the pandemic; only a truly global response can protect health services and the people children rely on. At UNICEF we are therefore grateful that the UK Government, along with several other countries, is providing the much-needed support. We urge other governments for urgent action to immediately begin sharing a portion of their vaccine supply with middle- and low-income countries to ensure equitable and fast access to COVID-19 vaccines.
In this race against time to end the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccinate people, it is critical that as many safe and effective vaccines as possible are available to as many people as possible as quickly as possible.
While the number of vaccines available is limited, it is critical to prioritize vaccinations which will save lives, protect public health services, and protect the most vulnerable.
Let us not forget that the COVID-19 crisis is a child rights crisis. Poverty is rising, inequality is growing, and the pandemic has upended the essential services that secure the health, education and protection of children and young people. The longer the pandemic goes on, the more intense the impact on women and children.
The faster we can help combat the pandemic, the faster Uganda can recover, leading to schools re-opening and health facilities functioning, while ensuring that serious disruptions to the lives of children end.
As a key COVAX partner, UNICEF is leading the procurement and supply of vaccines and immunization supplies (such as syringes and cold chain) to 92 low- and lower middle-income countries, building on our experience as the world’s largest provider of vaccines.
UNICEF has over the years supported the Government of Uganda in providing much-needed services, including vaccinations and we pledge our continued commitment to support the government through the Ministry of Health: to fully support the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccines; to ensure that the vaccines reach the targeted beneficiaries; and to help contain the spread of the virus.
The current situation gives us an opportunity **to boost and enhance health systems **now to ensure the effective delivery of COVID-19 vaccines and strengthen primary healthcare.
We know that vaccination is key to protecting our children and ourselves, and building safer communities and societies, free from harmful vaccine-preventable diseases. As we continue to deploy vaccines against COVID-19, it is critical that children continue to have access to essential healthcare and existing vaccines in order to prevent and contain outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, including Polio, alongside the COVID-19 pandemic.
Let me end by underpinning that inclusive vaccine strategies are essential to reduce the death and disease burden of COVID-19. Existing routine immunization programmes can be used to identify gaps and communities where health services have limited reach.
Seeing the recent Polio outbreak in Uganda, we cannot let one crisis compound another, especially when it comes to routine immunization and child health.
COVID-19 vaccines alone are not a silver bullet to end the pandemic. Diagnostics and treatments are also essential to find the virus and save lives. Continuing with physical distancing, wearing masks, and handwashing remains essential to protect children, families and communities and control COVID-19.
Once again, our heartfelt thanks to the UK Government for their timely donation of vaccines to help fight this this global pandemic. It is our hope that many other countries will follow suit.
No one is safe until everyone is safe.
Together we can and will set the course towards recovery.