Argentina and the UK hosted a virtual seminar on access to vaccines in Latin America and the Caribbean addressing the portfolio of emerging vaccines against COVID-19, the challenge of equitable distribution and how best to tackle vaccine disinformation.
On 14 December 2020, Argentina’s Health Minister, Ginés González García and the UK’s Minister of State for the Americas, Wendy Morton MP opened the virtual seminar “Vaccine profiles, distribution challenges and countering vaccine disinformation in Latin America and the Caribbean.” The event brought together senior officials and medical experts from across the region to discuss efforts to bring the COVID-19 pandemic to an end and how best to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.
Representatives from 25 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean and 11 nations from other regions joined leaders from the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), Gavi – the Vaccine Alliance, The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), the Caribbean Health Agency, and The Vaccine Confidence Project.
Doctor Seth Berkley, Gavi CEO, updated attendees on the rapid progress of the COVAX Facility, the global initiative working with governments and the pharmaceutical industry to ensure that all countries, no matter their economic circumstances will have fair and equitable access to vaccines. Both Argentina and the UK back the COVAX Facility and its work to pool the international community’s collective resources, to share and mitigate risks, and to expedite vaccine development and manufacturing.
The seminar reviewed the emerging portfolio of COVID-19 vaccine candidates and the importance of a diverse range of safe and effective vaccines to enable distribution and delivery at the scale required to end the acute phase of the pandemic. Given the global scale of that challenge, the answer will not lie with one successful vaccine or one single country; a wide range of vaccines, as is being supported by the COVAX Facility, is needed to take into account the many different country contexts and to ensure diverse population groups can be reached as quickly and effectively as possible.
Participants addressed the urgent need for investment in specialized distribution infrastructure for that mass vaccination effort, both in the short and long-term, to ensure that we have the structural resilience in place to tackle COVID-19 and future health emergencies.
The event also shared emerging best practice on efforts to counter disinformation and vaccine hesitancy, factors which risk prolonging the crisis by inhibiting people taking up COVID-19 vaccines. Participants agreed transparency, openness and proactive and positive communications were key to overcome vaccine hesitancy and combat disinformation.
This UK-Argentina seminar is the third in a series of joint events with the region. Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Minister Wendy Morton, representing the UK, said: I am delighted that the UK is hosting this event with Argentina, a key partner in the global and regional response to COVID-19 playing a vital role in vaccines development and manufacturing in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The UK is committed to ensuring a truly global response to COVID-19, both through events like today’s and through our investment in the world’s multilateral response, including the COVAX Facility. We are proud backers of COVAX as the best mechanism to deliver a truly global response to the pandemic and to realise our goal of equitable access to safe and effective vaccines for all.”
Argentina’s Health Minister, Ginés González García said that the COVID-19 pandemic is more than a health crisis, it is a human crisis that has revealed, as never before, the vulnerabilities of health systems around the world. However, it provides a unique opportunity to rethink more equitable, inclusive and sustainable societies” .
The UK has committed more than £1 billion of aid to counter the health, humanitarian and economic effects of COVID-19 around the world, including up to £548m to the COVAX Advanced Market Commitment, which supports access to vaccines for lower and middle-income countries. This is in addition to the UK’s commitment to COVAX as a self-funding nation.