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10 DEC 2020

JAKARTA: Experts from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the European Union (EU) had convened on Dec 8 to exchange best practices on policies and to identify further opportunities for collaboration on COVID-19 vaccines.

Vietnam News Agency (VNA) citing a press release said the EU noted that as two leading regional organisations, ASEAN and the EU share a common interest in pursuing a multilateral approach to an affordable, fair and equitable access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines.

The 23rd ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting on Dec 1 confirmed this commitment and vowed to continue to support vaccine multilateralism and the provision of COVID-19 vaccines as global public goods.

In line with its commitment to vaccine multilateralism, the EU contributed EUR500 million (over US$605 million) in grants and guaranteed loans to support the COVAX Facility, VNA reported.

COVAX aims to accelerate the development and manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines and to guarantee fair and free equitable access for every country in the world. As of today, 189 economies are part of the COVAX Facility.

The cooperation on vaccines builds upon extensive assistance to Southeast Asia provided by the EU, most notably the EUR800 million “Team Europe” package to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 in ASEAN.

Last week, the EU announced a new EUR20 million support programme on “South East Asia Health Pandemic Response and Preparedness”.

According to VNA, the online dialogue that took place on Dec 8 provided a platform for EU’s and ASEAN’s leading policy practitioners and medical experts for debating strategies and practical aspects of vaccine authorisation, production, and distribution in two separate panels.

Speaking at the event, Kung Phoak, the Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN for ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community, said that the ASEAN and EU have coordinated and cooperated at various levels and through various stakeholders in responding effectively to this pandemic.

The webinar dialogue on vaccine further deepens and facilitates innovations in health cooperation between ASEAN and EU, and further builds a robust relationship in the exchanges of policies towards affordable, fair and equitable access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, he added.

For his part, Professor Peter Piot, Special Advisor to the President of the European Commission on COVID-19 and the Director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said that safe and effective vaccines have a key role to play in emerging from the COVID-19 crisis.

No country, however, is safe until every country is safe. EU-ASEAN collaboration and leadership are more important than ever in ensuring that everyone, everywhere can benefit from these vital tools, the scholar added. - Bernama

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