6 August 2021, MANILA, Philippines – All countries and areas of the World Health Organization (WHO) Western Pacific Region have now secured sufficient doses of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine to protect all of their healthcare workers – approximately 26 million people.
WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific, Dr Takeshi Kasai, said: “Healthcare workers have been working tirelessly to protect us during the COVID-19 pandemic, and I am so relieved that the Western Pacific Region now has the vaccine supplies to protect all of them and our health services. However, we still have much work to do to ensure that all healthcare workers actually receive their vaccine.”
“Ensuring every healthcare worker in every country is vaccinated has always been a key priority for WHO – even in countries and areas which have reported few cases to date. The nature of this pandemic means that the virus can reach every corner of the globe. This means that every healthcare worker, particularly those on the frontline, should be vaccinated.”
More than 20 million of the total number of vaccine doses that have been received in in the Region to date were delivered by COVAX, which is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, UNICEF and WHO. The remainder were either produced locally, bought by countries or donated bilaterally.
“This milestone has been made possible by the support of donors and partners. I really want to sincerely thank all those who are supporting this effort,” Dr Kasai said.
However, Dr Kasai warned that many more doses are still urgently needed.
“This is an important milestone, but it’s not nearly enough. Vaccines are an important tool in the effort to protect individuals and reduce the impact of COVID-19 on society, and leaders in this Region have been trying to secure sufficient doses since last year. But as we all know, supply still does not yet match overall demand.”
“The next challenge is to acquire enough doses to protect the other priority groups in the Region – including older people and adults with existing health conditions that make them more vulnerable to severe COVID-19 or death – and ensure these are distributed to the people and places that need them the most.”
“This is particularly important in the context of variants of concern, especially the Delta variant, which has now been reported in more than 130 countries, territories and areas around the world. In the Western Pacific Region, even countries which previously had successfully suppressed the virus are now facing the challenge of rapid surges. We need to intensify our efforts to vaccinate all healthcare workers and other priority groups, including older people and those with pre-existing conditions which predispose them to getting very sick if they get COVID-19. This will also help to reduce the chance of more variants of concern emerging.”
“Therefore, our best defence against Delta – and the emergence of future variants – is to do all we can to continue to suppress transmission, through effective use of vaccines and continuing to use all of the tools at our disposal which we know work. This is also how we will be able to move closer to re-opening our economies and societies.”
Dr Kasai added that this means we must all continue to follow national guidance on physical distancing, mask wearing, handwashing, and avoiding crowds, close-contact settings and confined spaces, as well as getting the vaccine when it is our turn.
“We have come this far together; we can and must continue to protect ourselves and each other,” said Dr Kasai.
Notes for editors:
• COVAX is the vaccines pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, a ground-breaking global collaboration to accelerate the development, production and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines. COVAX is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and WHO, alongside key delivery partner UNICEF. Its aim is to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world. For more information, see www.gavi.org/covax-facility.
• The data in this news release on the number of vaccines available in countries and areas is as reported by countries to WHO and published through official communication channels.
Mr Ruel E. Serrano
Assistant (Communications & Advocacy)
WHO Western Pacific
Telephone: +632 8528 9993
Mobile: +63 908 891 4532
Ms Maria Cristina D. Nery
WHO Western Pacific
Telephone: +63 2 8528 9991
Mobile: 63 918 963 0224