India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar denounced “vaccine nationalism” on Wednesday and called for putting the world on guard against future pandemics.
Addressing, through a video link, the Security Council, he said: “Stop ‘vaccine nationalism,’ indeed actively encourage internationalism. Hoarding superfluous doses will defeat our efforts towards attaining collective health security.”
He contrasted that attitude of the Western nations with India’s global vaccine efforts.
New Delhi’s ‘Vaccine Maitri’ programme, he pointed out, has provided Covid-19 vaccines to 25 countries, and 49 more from Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean to Africa, South-East Asia and the Pacific Islands will get them soon.
Mexico’s Foreign Minister Marcelo Luis Ebrard thanked India for providing vaccines.
Giving an insight into the problem of vaccine inequality, Secretary General Antonio Guterres said: “Just ten countries have administered 75 per cent of all Covid-19 vaccines. Meanwhile, more than 130 countries have not received a single dose.”
Jaishankar also announced that India was donating 200,000 doses of the vaccine to UN peacekeepers, who operate in difficult conflict situations.
He quoted the Bhagvad Gita for India’s motivation to provide the vaccines.
The Scripture says, “Do your work with the welfare of others always in mind” and “this is the spirit in which India approaches the Covid challenge and urges this Council to work collectively to address its different dimensions,” he said.
Looking ahead, Jaishankar said that the world should prepare for future pandemics and for mutations of the Covid-19 virus.
Nations should “collaborate with each other on genomic surveillance to track virus mutations and variants and exchange information in this regard in regular, timely fashion”, he said.
They should also “proactively prepare for the next global pandemic by focusing on improving capacities, developing protocols, and building a knowledge base and expertise”, he added.
Meanwhile, Guterres, in a warning to the developed countries that have cornered most of the vaccine supplies, said: “If the virus is allowed to spread like wildfire in the Global South, or parts of it, it will mutate again and again. New variants could become more transmissible, more deadly and, potentially, threaten the effectiveness of current vaccines and diagnostics. This can prolong the pandemic significantly, enabling the virus to come back to plague the Global North.”
“The world urgently needs a Global Vaccination Plan to bring together all those with the required power, scientific expertise and production and financial capacities,” he added.
(Arul Louis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at @arulouis)