Dhaka, June 04: Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Thursday called for “rapid invention” of newer vaccines to protect mankind from the pandemics like coronavirus (COVID-19), saying that vaccination has proved to be one of the most important means to combat contagious diseases.“The present COVID-19 pandemic proved how really powerless we are in the face of any global calamity. It also reminded us of the old saying that prevention is always better than cure,” she told the virtual Global Vaccine Summit 2020 being held in the United Kingdom.
Citing the United Nations, Sheikh Hasina said one new infectious disease emerges in humans every four months and the Global Virome Project estimated that there are about 7 hundred thousand viruses which are capable of causing pandemics.
“Many of them may pose existential threat to the whole human race. So, the current and newer vaccines will be needed for the survival of the humans,” the premier said.
For prevention, she added, vaccination has proved to be one of the most important means to combat infectious diseases.
The prime minister in this connection sought the assistance of the GAVI Alliance (formerly known as Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation).
“GAVI Alliance can provide us with the best support in this battle and they’ll continue to do so if we let them do it,” she said.
The UK is hosting the Global Vaccine Summit, bringing together leaders from governments, foundations, the private sector and civil society and it marks 20 years since the GAVI was founded.
Sheikh Hasina mentioned that since its inception in 2000, GAVI has helped immunise over 760 million people against the deadly diseases, saving more than 13 million lives worldwide.
“Our simple wish can ensure that GAVI is fully funded to strengthen immunisation infrastructure and help immunise 300 million additional children and save up to 8 million lives in GAVI-supported countries,” she said.
The premier continued: “So, it is not only I, the whole world is waiting to hear from you in support of GAVI.”
Sheikh Hasina said there could not have been a better time than today to meet to support the causes of vaccination when the world is frantically searching for an effective vaccine to fight COVID-19.
“I’m delighted to be with you today to be a partner of the initiative which has saved lives of millions of children and pregnant mothers,” she said.
The prime minister said in this journey, GAVI has been a “time-tested partner” with Bangladesh towards achieving universal health coverage and SDGs.
“Bangladesh reached the target of MDG number 4 – reducing under-five mortality by two-thirds in 2010 due to important assistance rendered by GAVI,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina said since her first tenure as the Prime Minister, they have relentlessly been working to bring the fruit of development to the last person in the line.
“In our efforts, GAVI has provided continuous support to expand immunization coverage up to 98%. Our Universal Health Coverage programme could not have been successful without the alliance’s active participation and contribution of US dollar 700 million,” she said.
The prime minister said with GAVI’s partnerships for innovation in immunisation, Bangladesh has become the pioneer in the region for digitising and strengthening data systems as one of the most advanced users of the ‘Digital Heath Information System-2’.
“We’re exploring the use of child biometrics to improve immunisation coverage through a partnership with Simprints and NEC,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina also said the government is studying establishment of a unique digital identity for health services in partnership with ID2020, GAVI and the a2i programme.
The prime minister said Bangladesh is hosting 1.1 million ‘Forcibly Displaced Myanmar Nationals’ at a great financial, social and environmental cost.
“Our health officials and workers from international organizations are working to limit the number of COVID-19 cases in the Rohingya camps,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina said only 5 cases were detected till last month in the most densely populated (Rohingya) camps in the world.
“GAVI is helping us by funding $ 11 million for cholera, measles and rubella vaccines for the Rohingyas,” she said.
US President Donald Trump, Burkina Faso President Roch Marc Christian Kabore, Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde, UN Secretary General António Guterres, World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus as well as leaders and representatives of different countries and international organisations also spoke at the event.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Co-chair of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Bill Gates delivered the keynote speeches, while Chair of GAVI Board Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala gave the closing address.
The summit aims to raise the funds of at least $7.4 billion for the GAVI for 2021-2025 to protect a further 300 million more children against infectious diseases like measles, typhoid and polio.
In a statement, the GAVI said if the summit succeeds, the alliance will be able to maintain immunisation in developing countries, mitigating the impact of the pandemic.
“We’ll be able to sustain health system so that the countries are ready to rapidly introduce COVID-19 vaccines and by 2025, we’ll have immunised more than 1.1 billion children and saving 22 million lives,” it said.