Australia assures Pacific of COVID-19 commitment

Australia has assured Pacific and Southeast Asia nations that it is committed to providing support to give them access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines.

The Australian government released a joint statement last Saturday signed by federal ministers Marise Payne [foreign affairs and women], Greg Hunt [health] and Alex Hawke [defence, international development and Pacific] assuring its neighbours of their support.

The statement from Canberra stated that the Indo-Pacific region is the engine of the new global economy, consequently ensuring it can recover quickly will stimulate economic activity and restore jobs at home and abroad. 

"The Australian Government is committed to supporting access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines for the Pacific and Southeast Asia, as part of a shared recovery for our region from the pandemic.  This will also contribute to Australia’s own health security and economic recovery," the statement reads.

"We are securing access to COVID-19 vaccines for Australia, the Pacific and Southeast Asia through a range of advance purchase agreements with manufacturers and through participation in the multilateral COVAX Facility.

"Through a regional vaccine access and health security initiative, the Australian Government will provide a range of support including supplying safe and effective vaccine doses and delivering technical support to our regional partners. 

“Australia will assist with assessment of vaccine safety, efficacy and quality by national regulatory authorities, informed by WHO [World Health Organisation] advice.”

The Australian government added that it is committing AU$500 million over three years to the COVID-19 vaccine effort.

"We are committing an additional $500 million over three years towards this effort on top of the $23.2 million committed in the Budget. 

“The funding will further help ensure that the countries of the Pacific and Timor-Leste are able to achieve full immunisation coverage, and will make a significant contribution toward meeting the needs of Southeast Asia."

According to the statement, the funding is in addition to the Australian government’s support through the COVAX facility and the Australian Government’s existing Advance Purchase Agreements with Astra Zeneca-Oxford and CSL-University of Queensland.

"Ensuring countries in our region can quickly recover from the health and economic impacts of this devastating global pandemic is vital to ensuring our shared economic future in the post-pandemic world," the statement reads.

"A fast, safe vaccine rollout in the Pacific and Southeast Asia will mean we are able to return to more normal travel, tourism and trade with our key partners in the region. 

"This initiative is separate from, and additional to, Australia’s ongoing international development assistance budget."

The statement further reads that the funding complements Australia’s support for global efforts to help the region to access vaccines, including through the COVAX Facility and its Advance Market Commitment (A.M.C) for developing countries.

Australia has already committed AU$123.2 million to the COVAX Facility to secure access to vaccines for Australians and help bring down prices for all countries, and has contributed AU$80 million to the Facility’s A.M.C for the benefit of high-risk populations in developing countries.

According to the statement, the Australian Government has also entered into Advanced Purchase Agreements with Astra Zeneca-Oxford and CSL-University of Queensland for over 84 million units of vaccines, which Australia is able to donate to partners in the Pacific and Southeast Asia, should these vaccines prove safe and effective, and units are available above domestic needs.

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