SINGAPORE: The world has to strengthen cooperation to accelerate the development of COVID-19 vaccines, and to ensure “affordable, fair and equitable access” for all, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said on Wednesday (Sep 30).
In a video address to a high-level event at the United Nations General Assembly, Mr Heng expressed Singapore’s support for “vaccine multilateralism”.
He added that the country is a strong supporter of the role of international organisations like the UN and the World Health Organization (WHO) in the fight against COVID-19, noting that more than 1 million people have died from the disease.
“Every country is doing its best to contain the spread of the virus, and to cushion the impact of the pandemic on businesses, workers and households. But no place can truly be safe, until every place is safe,” said Mr Heng.
“Countries must therefore work together to fight this pandemic. This is our only way to overcome the crisis,” he added.
“In particular, we have to strengthen international cooperation to accelerate the development of vaccines, maximise production capacity, and ensure affordable, fair and equitable access to vaccines for all.”
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The event at the UN recognises the progress made in global collaboration to develop and ensure equitable access to new COVID-19 diagnostics and vaccines.
These include initiatives such as the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator and COVID-19 Global Vaccines Access (COVAX) Facility, which Mr Heng described as “new and innovative” forms of multilateral cooperation set up in response to the pandemic.
He said Singapore is an “early supporter” of these initiatives, co-chairing the Friends of the COVAX Facility with Switzerland and representing the Forum of Small Island States on the ACT Accelerator Facilitation Council.
“We encourage more countries to join these efforts and support vaccine multilateralism to better fight COVID-19,” Mr Heng added.
Noting that the world is at a turning point, Mr Heng said actions taken in the coming years would determine “the future of our countries and of humanity for decades to come”.
“By working together and strengthening the foundations of international cooperation, we can better deal with future crises and achieve the sustainable development goals, so as to build a better future for all our people.”