Poorer countries will most likely ‘bear the brunt of hundreds of thousands of needles deaths’ from inequality in access to COVID-19 vaccines, Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland warned.
This dire warning was given in a video address to the High Level Segment at the 46th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on 23 February.
Scotland said COVID-19 has shone a harsh light on health inequalities within and between countries and nowhere is this more evident that in access t vaccines.
“Although vaccines are a vital lifeline, they remain out of the grasp of far too many and crucially this means that citizens of the poorest nations may bear the brunt of hundreds of thousands of needles deaths, therefore we must not allow this and leaders of our world must come together to ensure that this does not happen,” she added.
She warned inequitable vaccine access could derail the global economic recovery and make wealthier nations lose money and we have learned that in order for us to be safe, we must work together.
She stated that the past year has enhanced lingering existential threats, including the climate emergency and reaffirmed that the Commonwealth’s resolve to support small states and other vulnerable countries to protect the environment and tackle climate change.
She called for inclusive development and multilateral co-operation, stressing that re-commitment to human rights must be central to Covid-19 recovery efforts.
“Human rights are not the panacea to all challenges brought about by the pandemic, by climate change or by the never ending list of conflicts across the world, but the last 12 months have taught a painful less to humanity therefore we must learn from experience,” she emphasised.
“We have to make human rights central to building back better, without human rights, humanity is not a sustainable project and we cannot afford to fail,” she concluded.