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Wealthy nations urged to share vaccines with Southeast Asia

Red Cross call comes as Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia struggle with surging Covid infections

UCA News reporter

UCA News reporter

Published: August 20, 2021 08:08 AM GMT

Updated: August 20, 2021 08:18 AM GMT

Wealthy nations urged to share vaccines with Southeast Asia

A family pray for a relative who died of Covid-19 inside a makeshift mortuary in Wangaya Hospital in Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia, on Aug. 11. (Photo: AFP)

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has said Southeast Asian nations are struggling to contain record infections and deaths due to the Delta variant and urged developed nations to share their millions of excess vaccine doses them.

"This Covid-19 surge driven by the Delta variant is claiming a tragic toll on families across Southeast Asia and it's far from over," Alexander Matheou, Asia Pacific director of the IFRC, said in a statement on Aug. 18. 

Southeast Asia was hit moderately when the pandemic started last year, but in recent weeks the region has witnessed the highest deaths globally after the healthcare systems in these countries ran beyond their capacity amid a sluggish vaccination rollout.

“We fear that as the virus spreads from cities to regional and rural areas that many more lives will be lost among the unvaccinated,” Matheou warned. 

The IFRC noted that Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia have witnessed record Covid-19 infections and deaths recently.

Vietnam had reported 301,957 infections and 6,770 deaths, Thailand 989,859 cases and 8,586 deaths, and Indonesia 3,930,300 cases and 122,633 deaths as of Aug. 19, according to the World Health Organization.

These coming weeks are critical for scaling up treatment, testing and vaccinations in every corner of all countries in Southeast Asia

Seven of the 10 nations where Covid-19 deaths have doubled the fastest are located in Asia and the Pacific. Southeast Asian nations need help in securing Covid-19 vaccines as the inoculation drive is moving at a snail’s pace in these countries, the IFRC said.

"These coming weeks are critical for scaling up treatment, testing and vaccinations in every corner of all countries in Southeast Asia," Matheou said. 

Indonesia and Philippines, the most populous countries in Southeast Asia, have vaccinated 10-11 percent of their citizens, while in Vietnam it is below 2 percent.  

By contrast, the United Kingdom has fully vaccinated 60 percent of its population, while Canada and Spain have given vaccines to around 64 percent of their citizens and the United States has reached 50 percent, according to Oxford University’s Our World in Data.

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The international humanitarian aid organization lamented the unfair access to vaccinations and asked developed nations to donate their excess doses to Southeast Asian nations.

"In the short term, we need much greater efforts by richer countries to urgently share their millions of excess vaccine doses with countries in Southeast Asia,” said Matheou.

Vaccine producers and governments also need to share technology and scale up manufacturing, the IFRC observed. 

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