"The pandemic has both thrived on inequities and exacerbated them"

A mobile unit of the Viet Nam Red Cross in Ho Chi Minh city is seen carrying out COVID-19 vaccinations for elderly, immobile and vulnerable residents.

A mobile unit of the Viet Nam Red Cross in Ho Chi Minh city is seen carrying out COVID-19 vaccinations for elderly, immobile and vulnerable residents.

Photo: Yen Duong / IFRC

As the Special Session of the World Health Assembly (WHASS) to agree on a way forward for a better coordinated and planned pandemic preparedness and response begins, Jagan Chapagain, Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said:

“The pandemic has both thrived on inequities and exacerbated them. Any new legal instrument, be it a treaty or otherwise, must affirm a commitment to equity: equity in access to health services and care, equity in access to vaccines, data, diagnostics and other treatments, and equity in access to recovery efforts, including economic recovery.  

“Too often we neglect the important work of community-level responders. We need increased investments and coordination in programmes that put communities at the heart of the response.

“This pandemic has made it clear that we need bold new solutions – both in international and domestic laws – to avoid the same mistakes happening again.  

“Public health emergencies are our past, our present, and we will face them again. The COVID-19 pandemic is not over, yet two years on we are still overly reactive and uncoordinated. Variants, like Omicron, will continue to emerge while the virus continues to circulate. Vaccine, data and knowledge equity are key to protecting the global population.

“Based on the IFRC’s years of experience in responding to health crises around the world, and on our network’s mandate to assist Governments with legal preparedness for disasters and public health emergencies, we stand ready to strengthen this work. Whatever the outcome of these sessions, it must not only be powerful on paper, but it must also be transformative in reality.”

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In London: Teresa Goncalves, +44 (0) 7891 857 056, [email protected]