Declare vaccines as global goods, PM Hasina urges World Health Assembly

Sheikh Hasina also called for extra attention to climate change impacts on disease burden

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Sunday reiterated her call to treat vaccines as global public goods saying that sustainable recovery cannot be ensured by leaving millions behind in vaccination efforts. 

“We believe that vaccines should be treated as global public goods. We cannot ensure sustainable recovery by leaving millions behind in our vaccination efforts,” she said in a pre-recorded video statement at the High-level Segment of the 75th World Health Assembly.

The premier said that technology and technical know-how need to be shared to scale up vaccine production in developing countries like Bangladesh. 

“We must work towards concluding the Pandemic Treaty for an inclusive and equitable response to future pandemics,” she added.

Hasina also called for extra attention to climate change impacts on disease burden.

She said Bangladesh stands ready to collaborate on medical research, including for neglected tropical diseases. “Anti-microbial resistance needs to be addressed in a concerted manner.”

“We must remain focused on non-communicable diseases expanding in developing countries. We need to invest further in research and access for cancer and diabetes treatments,” Hasina observed.

She also said that mental health issues deserve to be addressed as part of health emergency response.

“We seek international support in preventing road accidents, drowning, and other public health hazards,” she continued.

The prime minister said that Bangladesh remains committed to achieving SDG-3 to promote healthy living for people of all ages. 

She said that the government has been able to take health care services to the doorsteps of the people through more than 18,000 community clinics and health centres. 

She informed that her government is working on child nutrition, with a marked decline in stunting and wasting between 2007 and 2019. 

“We aim to have 65% birth deliveries by skilled attendants and 50% coverage of four antenatal-care visits by the end of 2022.”

The premier said that the Covid-19 pandemic is still having huge impacts on lives and livelihoods around the world. 

In Bangladesh, she said: “We managed to tackle its threats through a combination of healthcare, fiscal and social safety measures.” 

She mentioned that the government announced 28 stimulus packages worth US$23 billion, which is about 6.3% of the country’s GDP. 

She said the government provided cash and other assistance to nearly 40 million vulnerable people and provided vaccines to the people free of cost.

“We managed to contain the pandemic in the most densely populated camps for Myanmar’s forcibly displaced Rohingya,” she said.

She said that her government allocated US$1.61 billion for procuring vaccines from its national budget. 

She also thanked development partners for their donation of Covid-19 vaccines, including through covax.  

“Over 100% of our target population has already been vaccinated,” she informed.

She said that the government is grateful for the dedicated work of the frontline service providers. 

“We tried to stand by our neighbouring countries with medicines, PPEs, and healthcare workers,” she added.

Talking about the WHO Hasina said it remains the most important actor in global health governance. 

“We must provide sustainable financing and allow necessary reforms to enable WHO to support health systems around the world.”

She added that Bangladesh commits to doing its part in line with its priorities for public health and diplomacy.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, President of France Emmanuel Macron, President of Croatia Zoran Milanović, President of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta, President of the Dominican Republic Luis Abinader Corona, President of Botswana Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi, Conseiller Fédéral, Suisse Alain Berset and Vice-President of Ecuador Alfredo Enrique Borrero Vega also spoke at the program.