Press Releases

Address by External Affairs Minister at the UNSC Open Debate on Implementation of Resolution 2532 (2020)

February 17, 2021

Mr. President, Foreign Secretary Raab,

Let me begin by thanking the United Kingdom for organizing this discussion today. I also appreciate the insightful briefings on the challenges that we are confronted with regarding the availability, accessibility, affordability and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines in conflict-affected regions.

As we assess the impact of the pandemic and the prospects of recovery, including through the availability of vaccines, there are five concerns that India would like to share.One, lack of global coordination regarding vaccine distribution will hit conflict affected areas and poorer countries hardest. The ICRC estimates that more than 60 million people in such areas are at risk. Two, there currently exists a glaring disparity in accessibility of vaccines globally. Equity in access to vaccines is important for mitigating the impact of the pandemic.

Three, this disparity calls for cooperation within the framework of COVAX, which is trying to secure adequate vaccine doses for the world’s poorest nations.Four, from an economic standpoint, the costs of inequitable vaccine distribution are truly massive. The International Chamber of Commerce predicts that the global economy stands to lose as much as US$9.2 trillion if the international community fails to address vaccine inequity.

And five, routine immunization programmes have been thrown into disarray. Due to the pandemic, about 80 million children in at least 68 countries are at risk of diphtheria, measles, and polio.

Mr. President,

In order for the world to put the Covid-19 pandemic decisively behind us and to emerge more resilient, I would like to put forward the following nine points for our collective consideration:

i. Persist with the vaccination drive, along with other public health measures, to slow down the virus’s ability to infect new people and mutate further.
ii. Collaborate with each other on genomic surveillance to track virus mutations and variants and exchange information in this regard in a regular and timely fashion.
iii. Effectively address public resistance to vaccines. Vaccine-related information must be contextual, empathetic, and culturally sensitive, while providing scientific and accurate facts to allay the fears and concerns of the public.
iv. Improve public health infrastructure and build capacity through effective training programmes in vaccine delivery, especially in areas where health infrastructure is weak.
v. Stop ‘Vaccine nationalism’; indeed, actively encourage internationalism. Hoarding superfluous doses will defeat our efforts towards attaining collective health security.
vi. Strengthen the COVAX facility to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines to all in a fair and equitable manner.
vii. Urgently resume immunization programs across the world before children’s lives are threatened by other diseases. We simply cannot trade one health crisis for another.
viii. Stop disinformation campaigns taking advantage of this pandemic to advance their nefarious objectives and activities.
ix. Proactively prepare for the next global pandemic by focusing on improving capacities, developing protocols, and building a knowledge base and expertise.

Mr. President,

India has been very much at the forefront of this global fight against COVID-19 pandemic. We had earlier provided critical medicines, diagnostic kits, ventilators and PPEs to more than 150 countries, about 80 of them on a grant basis. Today, the pharmacy of the world is stepping forward to meet the global vaccines challenge.Two vaccines, including one indigenously developed, have already been granted emergency authorization. Additionally, as many as 30 candidates are under various stages of development.

In one of the largest vaccination drives ever, India itself will vaccinate about 300 million frontline and healthcare workers, elderly and vulnerable over the next six months. Our vaccination programme, which has begun a month ago, has already seen nearly 7 million people vaccinated.

Under the initiative of Vaccine Maitri, which translates into Vaccine Friendship, India provides vaccines to the world. We are, of course, a significant source of supply to the COVAX facility. But in addition, India is also directly sending vaccines to our friends and partners. Starting with our immediate neighbours, 25 nations across the world have already received Made in India vaccines. 49 more countries will be supplied in the coming days, ranging from Europe, North America, Latin America, the Caribbean to Africa, South-East Asia and the Pacific Islands. Keeping in mind the UN Peacekeepers who operate in such difficult circumstances, we would like to announce today a gift of 200,000 doses for them as well. We are working actively with GAVI, WHO and ACT Accelerator. Our contribution has also supported the SAARC COVID-19 Emergency Fund.

Mr. President,

The Bhagvad Gita states "Do your work with the welfare of others always in mind”. That is the spirit in which India approaches the COVID challenge and urges this Council to work collectively to address its different dimensions.

I thank you Mr. President.

New Delhi
February 17, 2021