New Delhi, January 18: The poorest and most vulnerable are the hardest hit by COVID-19 as the impact of the crisis will reverse hard-won development gains and hamper progress towards achieving Sustainable Development Goals, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said on Monday, stressing the need to ensure fair and equitable distribution of coronavirus vaccines.
Vardhan, who chaired the 148th session of WHO Executive Board through video conference, said the pandemic has presented an opportunity whereby health has been placed on the global agenda of governments, partners and donors.
He said COVID-19 has revealed the need to invest in health, and the call for sustainable funding to the World Health Organisation (WHO) so that the global body can fully respond to public health needs, adding that any proposed increase in budget needs to also consider the global economic impact of the disease.
The minister thanked the medical professionals, scientists and researchers as well as other essential workers around the world who continue working under difficult and challenging circumstances to deal with the pandemic. He also offered his condolences to the families whose dear ones died due to the disease, according to a statement by the health ministry.
“We all know how difficult the year 2020 has been for the whole world how humanity has battled this crisis with all its might, but it has also been a year in which the wisdom and evidence of science was judiciously adopted. I call the year 2020 as the year of science’ and a year of incredible scientific achievement.
In less than 12 months, researchers have characterised a novel illness, sequenced a new virus’ genome, developed diagnostics, produced treatment protocols, and established the efficacy of drugs and vaccines in randomised controlled trials,” Vardhan was quoted as saying by the ministry.
The speed at which COVID-19 vaccines are being successfully produced across many countries, prominent breakthroughs are taking place, a tech investment boom is being witnessed and digital technologies are being adopted. All this is combining to raise hopes of a new era of progress, he said.
The Union minister also expressed optimism that in the current year, the unprecedented crisis caused by the pandemic shall be mitigated and successfully reversed through committed political leadership and sustained global cooperation and solidarity.
“This year, we shall see intensified international cooperation to contain, mitigate and defeat the pandemic by using enhanced scientific knowledge and best practices,” he said.
“We have to recognise that the poorest and most vulnerable are the hardest hit by the pandemic and that the impact of the crisis will reverse hard-won development gains and hamper progress towards achieving Sustainable Development Goals. Therefore, we must ensure fair and equitable distribution of COVID vaccines,” Vardhan underlined.
“While each country has its unique approach in dealing with public health based on the strengths of their existing health systems and national policies and programs, I am sure that together we will continue to bring about improvements, aligned with our collective discussions,” he said.
The health minister added that the country will continue to be asked to deliver its best in the ongoing response to the pandemic and beyond into the recovery phase. (PTI)