UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell's remarks at the event on ending the COVID-19 pandemic through equitable access to vaccines, tests, and treatments
NEW YORK, 23 September 2022 - "Excellencies, distinguished guests, esteemed colleagues,
"Thank you for inviting me to represent UNICEF here today. I would like to thank the Secretary-General for his leadership, and all my fellow panelists and participants for their partnership.
"The global network that came together to vaccinate the world against COVID-19 is unprecedented in scope.
"COVAX, ACT-A, and many other partners continue to lead the historic effort to protect everyone – through vaccines, tests, treatments, personal protective equipment, and other tools.
"And we have come a long way together.
"As of late August, 12.4 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered globally. This is a remarkable achievement.
"As the world’s largest single buyer of vaccines and humanitarian supplies in the world, the UNICEF Supply division has been instrumental in this effort – with a focus on reaching underserved communities and strengthening health systems.
"With our COVAX partners, we implemented the largest ultra-cold chain scale-up in history -- financing and delivering 800 ultra-cold chain freezers to nearly 70 countries in 2021 alone.
"Since 2020, UNICEF also has shipped over 1.2 billion items of personal protective equipment to protect frontline and healthcare workers and others in 142 countries.
"We have developed a one-stop shop for all products and services needed to help countries scale up access to oxygen.
"And last month, UNICEF shipped more than 20,000 units of the COVID-19 antiviral drug, molnupiravir to Cambodia, which was the first shipment of a novel antiviral by ACT-A partners.
"All these joint efforts to ensure an equitable response to the pandemic are beginning to pay off.
"Ten member states have achieved 100 per cent vaccination of health care workers – and coverage for other high-priority groups, including people over 60 and pregnant women, has increased.
"Another positive: Of the 34 countries that were below 10% coverage at the beginning of 2022, 16 have now surpassed 10 per cent coverage, and four countries have reached at least 20 per cent coverage.
"Step by step, we are making progress – but we need to keep up the momentum to protect the world against future surges and new variants. Because as long as coverage continues to be inequitable and as long as communities continue to be unprotected and underserved, the pandemic will continue – and so will the serious risks it poses to children.
"Children may not be the face of the pandemic, but they are certainly among its biggest victims. The secondary impacts of the pandemic on children’s health, education, and well-being have been devastating.
"Consider just the pandemic-driven disruption in routine vaccination.
"Data published recently by WHO and UNICEF shows that in 2021 alone, 25 million children did not receive the vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis -- a marker for immunization coverage in general.
"This is the largest, sustained drop in the rates of routine childhood vaccinations in a generation -- potentially wiping out 30 years of progress if we don’t get back on track.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated many tough choices. Especially in the early months, impacts on routine immunization and other child health services were hard to avoid. But the time has come to re-ignite our commitment to child health.
"Our efforts to bring an end to the pandemic do not have to come at the expense of children. In fact, many of the things that will strengthen our pandemic response – for example, building stronger primary health systems and expanding access to basic health care and immunization –also help ensure better child health and help prepare for future shocks.
"I look forward to working with all of you to achieve that goal – and to ending the pandemic in a way that benefits every country, every community, and every child.