We must avoid vaccine nationalism at all costs: UNGA President-elect Abdulla Shahid

By The Hindu

Maldives Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid, who has been elected President of the 76th United Nations General Assembly, with a striking majority – 143 out of 191 votes cast by members – shared his thoughts from New York in a virtual interview, a day after his historic win that saw the Maldives at the helm of the UN body for the first time, putting the Indian Ocean archipelago at the global centrestage.

Many congratulations on your election, Minister Shahid. We heard you speak of your plans for a “Presidency of Hope” at the UN General Assembly. You have also spoken specifically about ensuring vaccines at a time when shortages are a problem, particularly in our neighbourhood. How do you see your role in trying to ensure vaccine equity in the next year?
First of all, thank you very much for the good wishes. It is a proud day for the Maldives — it is a proud day for South Asia, I would say — and you can be rest assured that as President of the General Assembly [PGA], I will do my best to make South Asia proud.

On vaccine equity, it is the first ray of hope that I want to build my presidency of hope on, it is clear that no one is safe until everyone is safe. There have been initiatives by the current PGA, and also the Secretary General, on vaccine issues, and I intend to carry forward their initiatives. And also put in every effort to make sure that we reach vaccine equity. We should avoid vaccine nationalism at all costs, because that is going to be so destructive to our efforts of making sure that we do away with this pandemic that has devastated our countries, both socially and economically.

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