NGOs: Vaccines must be free and available to needy

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Oxfam and others have launched a campaign to send world leaders a message that Covid-19 treatments can’t be hoarded by the rich. Photo supplied

Oxfam and four other organisations have kick-started a month-long social media campaign to mobilise a million supporters to send the message to world leaders that when a Covid-19 vaccine is found it must be free and fairly distributed to everyone on the planet.

The organisations include the Cooperation Committee for Cambodia (CCC), NGOForum (NGOF), Health Action Coordinating Committee (HACC) and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). The campaign launched on Thursday and will go until June 20.

NGOF executive director Tek Vannara told The Post on Thursday that these organisations want a vaccine to be distributed fairly and equally to all of mankind.

He said distribution must go first to those who have been victimised. They include refugees, poor people, and widows who lack protection and children.

“All world leaders need to pay more attention to ensure that the world has an adequate flow of resources, including financial, technical, equipment, research expertise on vaccines, medicines and information to prevent Covid-19,” he said.

The five organisations said in a joint press release that in 2009, during the swine flu pandemic, rich nations made large advanced orders for the vaccine from manufacturers.

This meant that the rest of the world received the vaccine in much lower quantities and at a much slower rate and were unable to vaccinate their citizens.

Since the outbreak of Covid-19, rich nations have been trying to monopolise access to vital supplies such as oxygen, diagnostic tests, ventilators and personal protective equipment (PPE), according to their press release.

The organisations said the head of the African Centre for Disease Control had written about how African nations have found themselves forced to the back of the queue, being told they will have to wait six months for vital equipment as it had been bought by rich nations.

“All of this suggests that there is a risk that a vaccine, when discovered, will only be available to the lucky few and tailor-made for profit, and not for the people who need it most,” the press release said.

Ministry of Health spokeswoman Or Vandine could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

But, at a press conference last month, Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng demanded that the World Health Organisation dispense them to Cambodia when there are effective medicines and vaccines recognised by it.