The Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof. Muhammed Pate has called for equitable vaccine access in the face of today’s multiple crises.
Speaking at the First Asia Pacific Summit on Infectious Diseases and Immunisation, Pate highlighted the significance of the summit, organised by the Asia Pacific Immunisation Coalition (APIC) with the theme “Vaccination for All: Access, Confidence, and Equity (ACE)” in Singapore. He addressed the pressing challenges of the 21st century, including the COVID-19 pandemic, geopolitical tensions, regional conflicts, economic uncertainties, widening inequities, and climate change. He underscored the vital role of vaccines in addressing these crises and advocated for equitable access, enhanced confidence and global health equity.
“The summit’s goal is to promote collaboration, reinforce partnerships, and ensure that vaccines remain a source of hope during this era of multiple crises,” he stated. Pate emphasized the strategic importance of vaccines in combating infectious threats and safeguarding human health.
He acknowledged the significant progress made in global health in the past 25 years, leading to increased life expectancies and reduced child mortality rates, largely due to improved global vaccine access. He also emphasised the role of vaccines in mitigating the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, enabling the reopening of economies and aiding in their recovery.
However, Pate pointed out that there are still significant challenges in ensuring equitable vaccine access. Many children worldwide have yet to complete their basic immunisation series, and several lack access to newer vaccines. Threats to vaccine access and confidence, such as lagging COVID-19 vaccine coverage in lower-income countries and the rise of anti-science and anti-vaccine movements, were also highlighted.
Pate outlined three key themes of the summit: access, confidence, and equity. He stressed the need to prioritise equitable access to vaccines, break down barriers, and integrate vaccine delivery into national health systems.
“Building confidence in vaccines was identified as a critical endeavour, necessitating clear communication, addressing misinformation, and engaging with communities. Achieving equity in vaccine access, both within and between countries, was emphasised as a cornerstone for a healthier and more just world,” he said.
To ensure the success of vaccines in the era of multiple crises, Pate called for global collaboration, the strengthening of childhood vaccination platforms, rethinking vaccine research and development, revitalising multi-stakeholder partnerships, mobilising financing, shaping markets and enhancing science communication.
Pate underlined the power of vaccines to protect and unite and urged participants to face the challenges of the time with determination and resolve. The summit, aiming to address the urgent need for equitable vaccine access in the face of multiple crises, seeks to mobilise global efforts, strengthen partnerships, and ensure that vaccines continue to be a source of hope.