Malaysia urges WHO to address vaccine inequity immediately

PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia has called on vaccine inequity to be addressed immediately with more equitable distribution and dose delivery swapping by countries that have excess supply.

Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said that from the country’s point of view, vaccine and equity have been one the greatest moral failings in humanity’s collective response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said while the world was told vaccines would be available, their delivery has fallen far short of what was planned.

“It has been in large part a great disappointment, with bilateral deals taking precedence over international collaboration and global solidarity.

“In calling for inequity to be addressed, Malaysia is willing to participate in technology transfer and investment to manufacture vaccines in many more sites around the world.

“We hope this inequity will not repeat itself with the latest antiviral treatments that are being developed and Covid-19 vaccines for children,” he said in Malaysia’s remarks at the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) 72nd regional committee meeting for the Western Pacific Region.

Khairy said Malaysia suggests that WHO moves towards a new equitable plan of distribution for antiviral and Covid-19 vaccines for children, and supports the call by the world body’s director-general for an international agreement on pandemic response.

However, he said the agreement must not just be inclusive and accountable but also equitable and transparent.

“Inclusive may mean we are invited for a conversation but equitable means we all enjoy the fruits of discussions in timely and equitable measures,” said Khairy

“Accountable may be we are all represented here, but transparent means we have sight of all deliverables, deals and data,” he added.

Khairy said understanding the importance of transparent sharing and real-time data, Malaysia uploads comprehensive data sets daily for anyone to access.

At the meeting, Malaysia also raised what has been described as the silent “parallel pandemic” – the deterioration of mental health, especially among young people.

“Lockdowns, movement restrictions together with unemployment and financial security have led to a spike in the number of people seeking mental health support across the globe. Malaysia is no exception,” said Khairy.

Malaysia has launched a strategic plan for mental health, highlighting inter-sectoral collaboration and crisis preparedness in addressing mental health issues including suicide and suicidal behaviours; as well as surveillance for early detection of cases that would allow prompt monitoring and timely intervention.