A pledge from the federal government to give 40 million additional COVID-19 vaccines to developing nations has been welcomed by Reverend Tim Costello speaking on behalf of a collective of NGO groups.
In a statement before the US President’s global summit to end COVID-19 in Washington, Scott Morrison announced that Australia would provide Indo-Pacific neighbours with 20 million of current COVID-19 vaccine doses, and procure another 20 million future doses.
“This pandemic is one of the most complex challenges in living memory. The world faces no greater test than ending it. And no more urgent task than vaccinating against it,” the pm said.
“No country is safe until we are all safe. That’s why it’s vital we work together.”
Speaking on behalf of the ‘End COVID for all’ coalition, Costello said the government must do more to help poorer nations fight the pandemic.
He said the prime minister pledge on Wednesday represented a ‘step in the right direction’.
“The Australian government needs to provide more than just vaccines to ensure doses get from the tarmac into arms,” Costello said.
“Vaccine sharing must also be delivered with enough support on the ground to guarantee they will be distributed equally and effectively.
“We must also not forget the power of global co-operation in the battle against COVID-19.”
To date Australia has distributed 3.2 million doses to other nations in the region, Morrison added, complemented by a $623.2 commitment to assist Indo-Pacific neighbours with their respective national vaccine roll-outs.
The extra doses amount to 60 million vaccine doses that Australia has committed to the Indo-Pacific to the end of 2022.
“We’ve provided 4,000 ventilators, almost 2,000 oxygen concentrators, and 106 tonnes of PPE, medical equipment and supplies to the Indo-Pacific,” Morrison said.
“We’re also looking to the next phase of recovery. Supporting research and development, and genomic surveillance. Strengthening our global health system to better respond to future threats.”
Costello urged the Australian government to contribute to global efforts such as the COVAX Facility as the best measure to prevent opportunities for the virus to mutate. A ‘fair share’ contribution would be equivalent to $250 million for COVAX and a further $50 million to address vaccine hesitancy, he said.
“COVAX leverages global expertise in distributing and administering vaccines to lower transaction costs, mitigate the risk of supply shortages, get a better price and allocate vaccines equitably.
“If we don’t act to fight COVID everywhere, experts estimate it could take less than a year before the virus mutates to the point where the majority of first-generation vaccines are rendered ineffective,” he said.
Australia’s experience showed how devastating an uncontrolled mutation of the virus could be, Costello added, referring to the Delta variant outbreaks which have significantly impacted NSW, the ACT and Victoria.
With only 2% of people in low-income countries having received only one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, the risk of more challenging variants was ever present, he said.
“We thought we had crushed COVID-19 while it ravaged other parts of the world, until Delta was introduced here.
“That is why, on top of the moral imperative we have to help our poorest neighbours, it is vitally important we do as much as we possibly can now to stop COVID in its tracks,” Costello said.