Team Europe is committed to push for vaccine equity in all countries. Photo courtesy of the Council of the European Union
EU Ambassadors to Việt Nam*
April 1, 2021, marks an important milestone in Việt Nam’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, as the country received the first batch of free vaccines under COVAX, a global programme supported by the European Union aimed at providing innovative and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines. This is the most outstanding symbol of EU and Việt Nam solidarity in the face of the COVID-19 challenge and the race to vaccinate the whole world.
Since the first outbreak in China in December 2019, the world has witnessed a tragic loss of human life. More than 127 million people have been infected and more than 2.7 million have lost their lives. There has also been major disruption to economic activities leading to real hardship for many millions of people around the world. Despite the fact that Europe is one of the worst hit continents, from very early on we were convinced that we and our partners around the globe, including Việt Nam, are stronger together, with the common will to curb the spread of the virus.
The untold story about vaccine development started in April 2020, on the day the European Commission, the World Health Organization, France and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation launched a collaboration framework, namely the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator. It brought together relevant partners to accelerate the development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines. Supported by many EU countries and by other partners around the world, COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) is one of the three pillars of the ACT Accelerator.
We know, since day one of the pandemic, that no one will be safe until everyone is safe. That is why the EU and EU Member States, collectively as “Team Europe”, have committed to making the COVID-19 vaccine a global public good. As one of the first and the largest contributors to COVAX, Team Europe contributes US$2.1 billion, which is equivalent to 33 per cent of the total COVAX budget. 100 per cent of this amount is direct grant support. The EU’s contribution is provided by the European Commission ($488.7 million), Germany ($1.1 billion); France ($122 million); Italy ($103 million); Spain ($61 million); the Netherlands ($36.6 million); Sweden ($23.8 million); and further contributions from Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Ireland, Czech Republic and Luxembourg.
On top of Team Europe’s grant support, the EU has committed to providing US$ 732 million in guarantees from the European Fund for Sustainable Development Plus (EFSD+) that will back a loan by the European Investment Bank (EIB), supported by contributions from all EU Member States. Moreover, Germany has provided an additional US$ 219.6 million to COVAX for vaccine logistics. All this means that Team Europe’s contribution to COVAX is crucial for its success.
The EU’s funding represents a major contribution to ensuring the rollout of safe vaccines without discrimination. About 92 low- and lower-middle-income countries are and will be benefiting from Team Europe’s support via COVAX with the free provision of vaccines. About 97 other upper-middle-income and high-income countries will receive support for the procurement of vaccines. Together, these countries represent four-fifths of the world’s population.
On March 2, 324,000 COVAX vaccine doses arrived in Cambodia. On March 21, 132,000 doses arrived in Laos. About 4,176,000 COVAX doses are allocated for Việt Nam. Apart from the first delivery of more than 800,000 doses in April 2021, the second batch of over 3,300,000 doses is expected towards the end of May 2021. More shipments are expected in the course of this year. In principle, the allocation of vaccines from COVAX should cover about 20 per cent of the population of beneficiary countries.
The arrival of such long-awaited vaccines opens a new chapter, with which Việt Nam will take one step further in protecting its people and, thus, minimising the probability of virus mutation. As mentioned by Mrs. Jutta Urpilainen, EU Commissioner for International Partnerships, we believe that vaccine deployment is not a race among countries but a race against time. Effective and timely vaccination will reduce the number of virus hosts so that the virus itself will no longer be able to multiply or mutate effectively. This is key to putting an end to the pandemic.
We welcomed the fact that on February 26, 2021, the government of Việt Nam issued Resolution 21, which guides the deployment of vaccinations in Việt Nam. We believe that this resolution will pave the way for the rollout of vaccines, sourced from both COVAX and commercial routes. Together with this resolution, the government also hinted at an idea of a “vaccine passport”, which is very similar to EU’s concept of a Digital Green Certificate to facilitate safe free movement within the EU during the pandemic. We look forward to exchanging experiences with Việt Nam on how to run a free digitalised system to certify and to monitor the proof that a person has been vaccinated, has received a negative test result, or has recovered from an infection of COVID-19.
At the heart of Team Europe’s engagement with the COVAX multilateral facility, we want to promote the principle of no-one-left-behind in vaccine distribution. No single country can achieve herd immunity if the rest of the world does not. In other words, herd immunity should be seen as a global concept, not a nation-specific target. The EU and Việt Nam, and all other countries, depend on each other to bring an end to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fairness and non-discrimination are at the core of EU values. As such, Team Europe is committed to push for vaccine equity in all countries, including Việt Nam.
The EU will support Việt Nam, among other ASEAN countries, on preparedness and response to the pandemic. We will also live up to our commitments in helping Việt Nam minimise the risk of future pandemics that emanate from the human-animal-ecosystem interface.
The EU will continue to be a partner that Việt Nam can rely on. We will also be a trustworthy defender of rules-based multilateralism, always ready to cooperate with Việt Nam to make the world more secure and fair. — VNS
* Mr Giorgio Aliberti – Ambassador of the European Union, Mr Thomas Schuller-Gotzburg – Ambassador of Austria, Mr Paul Jansen – Ambassador of Belgium, Mr Vitezslav Grepl – Ambassador of the Czech Republic, Mr Kim Hojlund Christensen – Ambassador of Denmark, Mr Andres Unga – Ambassador of Estonia, Mr Kari Kahiluoto – Ambassador of Finland, Mr Nicolas Warnery – Ambassador of France, Dr Guido Hildner – Ambassador of Germany, Mr Georgios Stilianopoulos – Ambassador of Greece, Mr John McCullagh – Ambassador of Ireland, Mr Antonio Alessandro – Ambassador of Italy, Mr Jean-Paul Senninger – Ambassador of Luxembourg, Mrs Elsbeth Akkerman – Ambassador of the Netherlands, Ms Maria Pilar Mendez Jimenez – Ambassador of Spain, Mrs Ann Mawe – Ambassador of Sweden.