Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Thursday said the COVID-19 pandemic showed that infectious diseases know no borders and do not differentiate between the weak and the powerful.
“The COVID-19 pandemic showed us that infectious diseases know no borders and do not differentiate between the weak and the powerful or between the developed and the developing,” she said while addressing the Global Vaccine Summit 2020 of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations (GAVI) held in London on the virtual platform.
The UK government hosted the GAVI’s third donor pledging conference to mobilise at least US$ 7.4 billion in additional resources to protect the next generation with vaccines.
Sheikh Hasina, in a pre-recorded speech, urged the GAVI to extend its best support in the battle against infectious diseases like COVID-19 as deadly viruses pose existential threat to the whole human race.
She mentioned that one new infectious disease emerges in humans every four months according to the United Nations. The Global Virome Project estimated that there are about 7 hundred thousand viruses those are capable of causing pandemics, she noted.
“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 and GAVI can provide us the best support in this battle,” said the Prime Minister.
Since its inception in 2000, GAVI has helped immunise over 760 million people against the deadly diseases saving more than 13 million lives worldwide. “They will continue to do so if we let them do it,” she said.
“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. So, it is not only I, the whole world is waiting to hear from you in support of GAVI,” said Sheikh Hasina.
She said the present COVID-19 pandemic proved how really powerless the people are in the face of any global calamity. It also reminded of the old saying that prevention is always better than cure. For prevention, vaccination has proved to be one of the most important means to combat infectious diseases, she added.
“In this journey, GAVI has been a time-tested partner with us towards achieving universal health coverage and SDGs,” the PM said.
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 mentioned.
Sheikh Hasina said GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, has provided Bangladesh with continuous support to expand immunization coverage up to 98 percent. The Universal Health Coverage programme of Bangladesh could not have been successful without GAVI’s active participation and contribution of US dollar 700 million.
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 Health Information System-2,’ she said.
“We’re exploring the use of child biometrics to improve immunisation coverage through a partnership with Simprints and NEC. We are also studying establishment of a unique digital identity for health services in partnership with ID2020, GAVI and the government’s a2i programme,” she went on.
Talking about Rohingyas, 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. So far only 5 cases were detected till last month in the most densely populated camps in the world. Gavi is helping us by funding US dollar 11 million for cholera, measles and rubella vaccines for the Rohingyas,” she said.
The world leaders were invited to the virtual summit to raise funds for GAVI. Earlier, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, UN Secretary General Antonio Gotterres and GAVI Board Chair Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala addressed the opening session, while a video message from US President Donald Trump was played.