KUALA LUMPUR, June 23 — Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin urged the World Bank today to speak out against global Covid-19 vaccine inequity amid mounting concerns that hoarding among richer economies would widen existing economic divides.
Khairy spoke off the cuff at the launch of the World Bank Malaysia’s Economic Monitor report this morning to tell the global institution that it bore some responsibility to ensure poorer and developing countries had equal access to Covid-19 vaccines.
Khairy also said the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access (Covax) programme, set up to ensure the people in poorer countries were not left behind in efforts to inoculate them against the coronavirus, has been “an abysmal failure.”
“We set up Covax in global solidarity, as a mechanism to ensure vaccine equity but that has been an abysmal failure,” the minister said.
“And I think the World Bank owes it to developing countries to be a strong voice for vaccine equity at the global stage, to remind the rich advanced countries that what has taken place over the last few months fell short of being respectable and responsible,” he added.
Khairy has repeatedly blamed rich countries for Malaysia’s slow Covid-19 immunisation rate. He said vaccine hoarding has caused severe supply shortages, and hindered the government’s effort to roll out the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme on schedule.
The criticism echoed concerns raised by public health advocates from around the world, and the warning that failure to address vaccine inequity could widen the north-south divide and threaten political stability.
Countries like the US and United Kingdom have bought enough vaccines to inoculate their citizens three to five times over, they noted, while highlighting how middle-income countries like Malaysia are struggling to get sufficient supply.
Khairy, when delivering his keynote address at the World Bank event this morning, raised the same criticism again.
“Many vaccine factories are also located in Europe. So they are able to hoard much earlier,” the minister said.
“Meanwhile countries in Asia, including Japan which is a very developed nation, are well behind in their vaccination rate compared to Europe, the US, Canada and the UK.”
Khairy, currently the minister overseeing the NIP, has pledged to ramp up the vaccination rate to about 250,000 doses daily by the end of June amid mounting criticism that the programme is moving too slowly.