PUTRAJAYA, Aug 7 — Asean must prioritise procurement of the Covid-19 vaccine as a bloc to increase its availability for the region, said Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein.
In his remarks in conjunction with the 53rd Asean Day celebration at Wisma Putra here today, Hishammuddin said that Malaysia had always maintained that it was imperative that the vaccine must be a global public good that was equitable, accessible and affordable for all.
He said that Asean in future must position itself as a hub for vaccine production or distribution to further drive costs down and accelerate Asean as a region for biotech innovation.
“As the world races to find a Covid-19 vaccine, Asean as a collective of over 650 million people must find ways to remain steadfast in our commitment to ensure Asean is prioritised in the development and distribution of the vaccine in future,” he said.
Moving forward, he said that Asean needed to prioritise vaccine diplomacy and realise that all the nations would not return to any sense of normalcy without the vaccine needed to prevent the Covid-19 pandemic.
“In every great crisis lies great opportunity. Whilst vaccine diplomacy is just one of them, Covid-19 must serve as a wake-up call for us to leave our comfort zones and explore new areas of cooperation that we can take advantage of,” he said.
Also present at the celebration were Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri and International Trade and Industry Deputy Minister Datuk Lim Ban Hong.
Founded in 1967, Asean comprises of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Speaking to reporters after the event, Hishammuddin said that he had raised the need for the Covid-19 vaccine at the Asean level in his recent telephone conversations with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
He said that Asean member countries should use their advantages as one voice when faced with powers that have room to help Asean.
“There is no point if the Covid-19 vaccine reaches Malaysia while neighbouring countries are still facing pandemic challenges,” he said. — Bernama