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No return to normal without universal COVID jabs: General Assembly President

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Abdulla Shahid, President of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly, briefs the media at UN Headquarters in New York.

 The President of the General Assembly on Tuesday announced a New Year resolution on vaccine equity, calling on governments to come together on this issue ahead of a major event in mid-January.

“Unless we can vaccinate the world, there is no way out of this. You see different types of variants coming out, and this is going to continue,” Abdulla Shahid told journalists in New York.  

He said he would convene a high-level event in the General Assembly on 13 January with the goal of ensuring equitable access and delivery of vaccines “to everyone, everywhere, at the earliest.”

Universal shots

Leading up to the event, Member States will be able to register their support for universal COVID vaccinations in what Mr. Shahid is calling a New Year’s resolution.

“I want to see renewed political commitment and meaningful engagement to ensure universal vaccination,” he told correspondents.

Mr. Shahid noted that the international community had missed the target set by the World Health Organization (WHO) to inoculate 40 per cent of the world’s population by the end of this year, and that there are concerns about meeting the next target of 70 per cent by the middle of 2022.

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Nowhere near equity

“We do not have vaccine equity,” he said. “When you look at countries in Africa where you have an average vaccination rate of maximum, 5 or 6 per cent. We are unable to say with confidence that we are anywhere near to equity.”

He noted that this is exactly why the General Assembly must unite on vaccinations.

“The new normal will be pushed again further and further” into unknown territory he said. “This we cannot afford, and that is why we need to get together for the effort, a united effort.”

In his press conference, he also spoke about responding to the needs of a warming planet, human rights, and revitalizing the work of the United Nations.

Fellowship of HOPE

He also stressed the importance of involving young people in the UN’s work, in particular through his Fellowship of HOPE, which will bring eight young diplomats from underrepresented countries to the President’s Office starting in January.

“As a small islander who has seen and experienced the struggles of so many countries in keeping up with the rest of the world on the diplomatic stage, I know they will walk away with knowledge and skills to support their nations,” Mr. Shahid said. “As true multilateralists.”

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